May 10, 2018
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is helping save lives by supplying hundreds of first responders in northeastern Oklahoma with free boxes of Narcan, a spray that reverses Opioid drug overdoses.
Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health recently received a $1 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as part of the First Responder Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
The four-year grant is also training emergency responders in the tribe’s rural 14-county jurisdiction on how to administer Narcan if they respond to suspected overdose calls.
“Cherokee Nation is eager to provide this product and the lifesaving training to first responders within our jurisdiction. Through our federal partnerships, we can better equip those on the frontline at the county and municipal level, who battle the deadly and devastating effects of opioid abuse daily,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Our tribal government is a good partner that is enhancing local emergency responses so they are better, faster and more effective. That means potentially saving lives in northeast Oklahoma.”
The tribe has held Narcan trainings in Muskogee and Vinita and plan to have its third training at the Nowata County Fair building on May 21.
“Right after having our training, we used it and have administered Narcan at least three times,” said Kevin Wofford, fire chief at Vinita Fire Department. “It’s great because we are going to be able to keep at least two doses in each truck . There are times we respond to calls of this nature and arrive before an ambulance. In these cases, hopefully we can make a difference.”
The tribe’s behavioral health substance abuse department has three grants currently related to opioid abuse prevention. They educate on storing and disposing of medication properly and the dangers of addiction.
“We wanted our traditional first responders educated on how to administer Narcan and get it in their vehicles, because in rural areas they may get to the scene before EMS arrives,” said Sam Bradshaw, with the tribe’s Behavioral Health Substance Abuse Prevention department. “Opioid overdoses happen all over America; it’s not unique to the Cherokee Nation. But typically Narcan is something law enforcement and first responders have access to in metropolitan areas and not always in rural areas.”
In the past fiscal year, Cherokee Nation Emergency Management Services alone administered about four doses of Narcan per month on emergency calls. Cherokee Nation EMS helps lead the Narcan trainings.