Last week, the Treehouse addiction treatment facility in Scurry donated 200 Naxalone kits, life-saving drugs capable of resuscitating opioid overdose victims, to Kaufman County police departments.
The Treehouse raised the funds for the Naxalone kits from a golf scramble (which the facility plans to annualize) back in July with plans to equip Kaufman County first responders with them to have on hand in the event of an encounter with an overdose victim on death’s door. Each kit contains two doses of Narcan (a brand of Naxalone) and each dose costs between $40 and $125, making them difficult to purchase directly through individual departmental funds.
“If we had to pay for this out of our budget, it would be a big chunk,” Kaufman County Sheriff Bryan Beavers said in a meeting with county police chiefs and representatives from the Treehouse last Thursday. “We’ve already saved two lives, so we’re very grateful.”
“We made a promise to the community back when we did the golf tournament,” Treehouse community liaison Dana Morgan said. “This is making good on that promise and a continued promise that we will continue to support the community.”
Treehouse CEO Ted Ted Bender is a proponent of Naxalone due to its ease of use, effectiveness, and lack of side effects. While Naxalone doses can be injected, the kits provided to Kaufman County first responders last week are administered through the nose making them very easy and quick to use; Bender has even administered the drugs himself. Perhaps, most importantly, though, the drugs have no known side effects that could endanger the life of an overdose victim even further, or create side effects when used on an incorrectly identified recipient.
“If you give somebody a dose of Narcan that didn’t overdose on an opioid, it’s not going to harm them,” Morgan said.
“I think that’s the fear sometimes people have when intervening,” Treehouse Clinical Director Holly Steward added. “’Can I harm them more? Am I going to get in trouble for intervening?’ So I think this is something to eliminate that fear. It’s going to be really important for the community to understand that it won’t harm them.”
Bender has been researching the effects of the opioid epidemic for years; the Herald spoke to him this summer about the overwhelming number of opioids that were supplied to Kaufman County during the peak years leading up to the spike in overdose deaths that began in 2014 and also about the still-increasing number of overdose deaths in Texas even as the national rate begins to trend downward.
“Each year, thousands of people die from an opioid-related overdose,” Bender said. “We see that number continue to rise but we are also seeing lives saved because first responders and people in the community are carrying Naxalone. That is why we want to do our part to help agencies in our community get this life-saving medication. It’s better to have it and not use than to need it and not have it. That is why we encourage first responders, businesses, whoever, to have it on hand. Addiction does not discriminate, so you never know who may take something that could be potentially deadly and you have to be there to help save their life.”
Each kit provided by the Treehouse also includes a card reading “You’ve been given another chance. It’s time to do something with it” and a number to a dedicated line in the Treehouse’s call center.
“When they call in on that number, the call center knows that they’ve been brought back to life by our Narcan,” Morgan said. “If we can bring them into treatment with us, great. If not, we’re going to make sure that they get treatment somewhere, whether that be a scholarship to one of our partners, indigent treatment, or whatever. I think that’s key.”
“It’s not just about reviving them,” Steward added. “It’s about changing the course of their lives.”
Both the Treehouse and Kaufman County have plans to continue to collaborate to ensure that first responders maintain their access to Naxalone. Sheriff Beavers told the county police chiefs attending Thusday’s meeting that he would organize trainings for any of the county’s offices that needed them and Morgan said that with a steady supply of Narcan, the Treehouse would be able to continue to supply first responders that need them.
“We’re very grateful to the efforts that they’re putting forth,” Kaufman County project manager Pam Corder said. “Working as a team, we can help so much more.”