“Overdoses are preventable, no one has to die from an overdose.”
So says Dusti Yamaguchi, coordinator of the Kingman Harm Reduction Program through Sonoran Prevention Works. Sonoran is the largest distributor of naloxone, used for reversing opioid overdoses, in the state.
That potentially life-saving tool is available in Kingman by way of Kingman Harm Reduction’s Syringe Services Program, which provides resources, clean syringes and assistance to people who use drugs.
“This is harm reduction,” she said. “Harm reduction advocates for any positive change without judgement, without stigma.”
She said people who utilize programs like syringe services are more likely to engage in available services available at Kingman Harm Reduction. That comment was backed up by Kingman Police Department Chief Bob DeVries.
“Statistics show that an individual accepting referral information from harm reduction personnel are five times more likely to follow through and seek treatment,” the chief said. “We are making a difference one person at a time, one day at a time.”
Yamaguchi also said conversation and a friendly attitude go a long way when interacting with those who often don’t hear a kind word all day.
“Sometimes I’m the only person who’s nice to them all day,” she said. “I’m the only person who shows them love and care and support, and that means a lot to people. Just a little respect is the difference between hope and despair for some people.”
Resources available locally include contact information for Arizona at Work, CPR shield kits, housing assistance, needle disposal and additional assistance through the Opioid State Target Response program coordinator at North Country Health Care and similar services at Mohave Mental Health Clinic.
“Basically what they do is they help facilitate getting people the services they need,” Yamaguchi said.
Also available at Kingman Harm Reduction are fentanyl test and opioid overdose prevention kits. Fentanyl, Yamaguchi explained, can be in anything.
“Based on what people are coming back and telling me that they’ve tested, it seems like it’s (Fentanyl) in one-third to one-half of the black tar heroin,” she said. “It’s in about 10 to 20 percent of the meth.”
She said fentanyl, a fast-acting and extremely strong opioid, is even popping up in pills disguised as Percocet and Xanax. She said that for those who do use drugs, the best way to stay safe is to not use alone. Going slow and using fentanyl test strips are also recommended.
Should someone suspect an overdose, there are additional steps that can be taken that could save a life, the first of which is knowing what signs to look for.
“Someone’s color might change, their breathing might be really shallow or labored, just basically non-responsive,” Yamaguchi said.
If those characteristics of an overdose are encountered, people should make use of rescue breathing and a naloxone kit. The tools for both are available at Kingman Harm Reduction, 3505 Western Ave.
Step one when encountering an overdose is a hard sternum rub using knuckles, followed by “verbal Narcan.” Yamaguchi said that telling someone they are about to be administered Narcan can knock them into instant withdrawal. If the person is still unresponsive, call 911.
At that time, people can implement the easy-to-use opioid overdose prevention kit available to all at Kingman Harm Reduction. Upon picking up the kit, people will be trained by Yamaguchi on how to use it properly. She will also give instruction on rescue breathing, another life-saving technique she said everyone should know.
Since May, Yamaguchi said she’s heard back from nearly 70 people who have used the kit to save a life. And that’s just for opioid-related overdoses. According to DeVries, opioid and heroin are the most common overdoses encountered by his department.
“To date the department has been successful in six Narcan reversals and the Kingman Harm Reduction Program through Sonoran Prevention is reporting 67 reversals as of yesterday,” DeVries wrote in an email on Friday. “That’s 73 people that now have a second chance at life.”
All these efforts are coming together as Sonoran Prevention Works is set to host a Community Memorial Vigil and Celebration from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Metcalfe Park, 315 W. Beale St., to honor, celebrate, support and remember loved ones affected by drug use.
Those wishing to have their loved one’s name read aloud at the vigil can send that information to Yamaguchi at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 609-755-5477.
“The holidays are a really hard time for people, so we want to be able to offer folks support,” Yamaguchi said. “We’re going to honor our loved ones who have survived, but also loved ones who we’ve lost, too.”