On July 12, The Treehouse, an Addiction Campus located in Scurry, will be hosting a golf scramble fundraiser at the Rusted Rail Golf Club in Crandall with proceeds going toward the purchase of Narcan kits, life-saving drugs that can be used to revive individuals who have overdosed on opioids.
Registration for the tournament will begin at 7 a.m. and the scramble will kick off at 8 a.m. Entry fees are $75 per person or $300 per team while the course’s 18-holes are available to be sponsored for $400 each on a first come, first serve basis. All of the Narcan purchased from funds gathered through the event will go to Kaufman County first responders along with a training exercise to certify the responders with the necessary knowledge of how to administer the drug.
Dr. Ted Bender, the CEO of the Treehouse, is new to Kaufman County. Having just come to the area from Mississippi where he also runs another Addiction Campus called Turning Point in the last few months, Bender noticed that the majority of first responders were not armed with Narcan kits and began working with his public relations and business development teams to come up with a solution to what he viewed as a significant public health concern.
“I came out here and I saw an immediate problem,” Bender said. “I met with my business development team and my public relations and I said ‘Guys, look. We have a problem out here in Kaufman County and East Texas. We have a bunch of first responders who desperately need to have this life-saving medication on them. What can we do? How can we raise the money?’ And then as soon as I said that, the machine turned on. Within one day, the PR team came back with this idea to host a charity golf tournament. So it was really just a lot of creativity on their part. It’s a new idea for us. We’ve already had tremendous response from it.”
Specifically, the proceeds will go to the purchase of Naxalone, which is a specific brand name under the Narcan umbrella. Naxalone is an opioid antagonist that, according to Bender, works very quickly and efficiently to resuscitate people who have overdosed on dangerous opioids and who are there at critical risk of death.
“It can completely or partially reverse the opioid overdose,” Bender said. “It’s incredibly easy to use, you can’t really mess it up, and it really can just pull people out of the overdose. It has saved countless lives.”
While some Narcan kits are administered via an injection, the version of Naxalone that The Treehouse is interested in purchasing for Kaufman County first responders is injected nasally. Bender lauds this version as being the easiest to use and therefore the most attractive option for first responders from a variety of stations.
“It’s very easy to use, which is one of the best parts about it,” Bender said. “You shoot half of it in one nostril and half of it in the other. There is some training that goes into it, so we’re going to offer the training as well. But it’s simple; real simple training, real simple certification and then it’s about getting the funds for life-saving Narcan kits to the people that need it.”
While the response time from the point of administration is typically visible within a matter of minutes, Bender notes that victim’s recovery is not guaranteed. And even if the individual does respond to the Narcan, Bender says they still must be taken to the hospital immediately.
“Usually in a pretty short amount of time, they should come to,” Bender said. “Now if there is no response after a few minutes, typically you’re going to want to get a second dose and then hopefully the patient comes back. Once used and the person kind of comes back to life, a lot of people tend to believe that you’re in the clear at that point. It’s still time to go to the hospital, I want to make sure that people know that. If you’re in the position where you have to administer Narcan to somebody, someone should be on the phone with 9-1-1 at the same time. But it can be that life-saving drug that pulls them out of the immediate crisis.”
As a part of Addiction Campuses, a national organization that includes four campuses including Turning Point and The Treehouse, Bender has been studying the opioid epidemic for some time. He spoke to The Kaufman Herald a few months ago on the state of the national health crisis that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead over the last several years. And as he and other care centers across the country await updated figures notating the number of overdose deaths in 2018, Bender is concerned that things are going to get even worse before they get better and that government intervention will be required to really get down to the root of the issue.
“I think that awareness is getting better,” Bender said. “I think that the use of Narcan and its availability is getting better. A lot of it is going to depend on the CDC data that we’re waiting for. It should be out soon, I would guess, because we still don’t know what the 2018 numbers are going to be. I expect a lot of interesting stories will come out of that, but I am expecting it to be worse than 2017. Just looking at the nationwide data, the answer is probably going to be that it continues to get worse. But there are bright spots across the country. Dayton, Ohio is a really good example of that. They’ve made some really good improvements and it’s showing significant decreases in overdose deaths. So I think the blueprint for success is kind of being shaped, although I think that on a national level what’s really going to make a dent and reverse this trend is going to cost about $100 billion. I think we need it as soon as possible in the next five years.”
In the meantime, the purchase of Narcan kits is largely up to police departments and hospitals themselves, which has led to the scarcity of the drug in Kaufman County and many other areas around the country with departments that are either unable or unwilling to purchase the amount of Narcan kits that Bender thinks every first responder should have.
“Every first responder should have this on them,” Bender said. “Firefighters, PMS workers, police officers, everybody should have it. It’s a budget constraint with a lot of departments, so that’s a problem I saw very early that I wanted to fix. Every single dollar that we raise, every single Narcan kit that gets passed out, that’s a potential life being saved. I couldn’t think of a better cause for us to champion.”
Bender hopes that, if the golf tournament is a success, it could set the stage for further cooperation between The Treehouse and first responders and community leaders around Kaufman County. As the CEO of the largest rehab facility in Texas, Bender feels the responsibility of spreading his message and helping as many entities as he can.
“My major goal really is to get the word out and to be kind of a beacon of hope in this community,” Bender said. “To give back and work with people in our local community and help in any way I can, that’s my greatest passion. And to get the word out about The Treehouse. I think we’re the largest facility in the whole state, so I really want to get the word out to let people know that we’re here, we’re ready to help, and we’re going to do everything we can to help our little corner of the world survive this disease.”