Despite the neighborhood’s proximity to Center City, Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood often looks like an entirely different city. The neighborhood has one of the highest rates of heroin overdoses in the nation, contains the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast, and is considered the epicenter of the opioid crisis in the city. In 2018, drug-related issues in the area led to Mayor Jim Kenney announce the neighborhood was under a disaster declaration.
But not all is bleak in Kensington; there are many people — residents, activists, and non-profit leaders — who are fighting for change in the neighborhood. In fact, since its inception in 1991, Prevention Point Philadelphia (PPP), has provided harm reduction counseling, syringe exchanges, free medical care, annd support and education groups to those in the area.
For the past four years, Roz Pichardo, who grew up in Kensington, has worked as a lead educator with PPP to help educate other Philadelphian’s on the city’s opioid and overdose crisis. And she believes anyone can easily learn how to administer naloxone by attending just one overdose prevention and rescue training. Here’s how — and what she says you will learn in the process:
Figure out if in-person or virtual training suits you best.
Depending on where you receive your training, you can attend an in-person or virtual session. Currently, PPP is doing all their services in-person; to schedule a session with them, you should e-mail Pichardo or Clayton Ruley. However, the City of Philadelphia is currently offering remote training a couple of times a month, which can be scheduled on the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's website.
While you can’t go wrong either, Pichardo suggests everyone should receive their training in-person: “It’s [...] better to receive in-person training, because you get to try out the different ways on how to administer Naloxone. You don’t get to do that by watching a YouTube video or listening to a lecture. Hands-on experience is invaluable.”
Typically, depending on the number of people in attendance, training sessions last between 30-45 minutes. If English is not you or your group’s first language, Pichardo is bilingual and can also conduct the training in Spanish.
Decide whether you want to carry naloxone — and figure out where you can get it.
It’s one thing to know how to prevent or reverse an overdose, it’s another to actually do it. And you can’t do it without actually carrying naloxone — the medication designed to rapidly reverse a narcotic overdose.
In Pennsylvania, like many other states, naloxone can be purchased as a standing order, even though it’s a prescription medication. This means that pharmacists in Pennsylvania can dispense naloxone without requiring an individual prescription; price varies, depending on the specific medication and your insurance. PPP also offers naloxone on an ability-to-pay basis.
Know that every intervention looks different.
One thing that Prichardo wants to make clear during every training session is that everytime you’ll use naloxone, the intervention will be different depending on what drug was administered and when the person overdosed.
“For each drug, it’s kind of different,” she says. “So if they’re on straight fentanyl or heroin, then you can [better] see the symptoms. But if they do the other synthetic stuff, they can get a little agitated when you give them [naloxone], but it still works [...] Although the process of administering [naloxone] is the same every time, each person is different in how you address them. Sometimes you need to be stern and other times you need to use a lower tone, especially if they’re just coming to and aren’t aware they overdosed.”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
While overdoses have, on a whole, declined in Philadelphia over the past year — they’ve spiked among Black drug users and are still an issue that’s prevalent throughout the area. If you feel like you need clarification during or after training, it’s always best to reach out to the person you received the training from for an answer — it could save a life.
“There are no stupid questions,” Pichardo likes to remind people.