Why This Is Important
Fentanyl was designed as a prescription drug to treat patients with severe pain. However, because it’s a powerful synthetic opioid, it’s begun to be made and used illegally. It’s being sold as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is considered a cheaper drug because it takes very little to produce a high. What increases its danger is that drug dealers are adding it into other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. When this happens, it leads to higher chances of overdosing and death.
How Fentanyl Kills
The way that fentanyl kills is by binding the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain. The receptors control your pain and emotions. This in turn affects how pain messages are sent throughout your body, through both the spinal cord and central nervous system. Learn more about the facts of fentanyl from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
More Widespread Than You Would Think
Did you know that in West Virginia alone, there were 115* drug-related overdoses per month in 2020? According to Southern West Virginia Acting U.S. Attorney Lisa G. Johnston, more West Virginians died of overdoses in 2020 “than in any previous year on record.”
These overdoses happen every day. Since fentanyl can be pressed and easily added to something as simple as a Xanax tablet, it can easily be mistaken for a different drug. It could be weeks after the death that it becomes apparent that fentanyl was the cause of death. So when they are first announcing the overdose, it’s not identified as related to fentanyl.
Why There Is A Need
This drug affects so many families right in our backyard, yet it seems not to be discussed in mainstream media. But, unfortunately, saying “No” is no longer enough; lives of all ages, demographics, and race are being lost, and there are no outlooks that predict that that will change any time soon.
With medical institutions being overrun, the individuals admitted with fentanyl in their system are not necessarily getting the attention and support that they need to help them make a change. These individuals are placed in a room to detox, and once medically cleared, they’re released. It is especially important that individuals having a severe adverse reaction to fentanyl be treated differently. Unfortunately, it becomes a perpetual cycle because once released it’s very easy to go back to searching for that high again. Then they end up back in the same situation or, even worse, they don’t come back at all.
This drug is taking precious lives. While we may not be able to stop the drugs from coming into our community, we can help heal those suffering from addiction. We can educate adults and children. This way we can help break the stigma that is associated with addiction.
The goal of Lauren’s Wish is to change the process by which these hospitals/medical institutions release patients. Instead of being released from a local ER and then going right back into the same environment they came from, they will be transported to Hazels House. The way it works is, once medically stabilized, the hospital contacts Lauren’s Wish at Hazel’s House to begin the warm handoff. Then, once the hospital has received the okay, they take the individual by MON EMS non-urgent care to Hazels House. Individuals will also have the option of walking in on their own as well.
There the third floor is dedicated to Lauren’s Wish. The individual will be given a room with a bed in a secure area where they will be monitored. For the first day, they will mainly rest in their room. There is a secure elevator, and the steps also have a security alarm to protect all individuals staying there. If there’s a need, clothes will be provided, and they will receive three meals a day.
On days 2 through 6, these individuals will be spoken to in a caring way by Peer Recovery Coaches, Clinical Psychologists, Social Workers, Nurses, and Doctors. These individuals let them know that they’re there for them when they’re ready to talk. They can leave if they wish and come back anytime, but it does restart the process.
For now, this facility acts as a “warm handoff” where the goal is to set them up on a path that will help them with their addiction. This can be through a six-month in-patient location similar to Jacobs Ladder, a 60-90 day stay at a partner facility, or an out-patient setup through the local hospital system. If payment for this type of help is an issue, scholarships will potentially cover the costs.
Phase two will include opening a long term women’s addictiction treatment center that will mirror the operation of Jacob’s Ladder.
*Stats come from data in https://www.wvnews.com/news/wvnews/west-virginia-sen-manchin-notes-drastic-increase-in-overdose-deaths-calls-for-action/article_e17d0f24-e4c3-11eb-8ba0-9bab8c7d1c35.html