Island sees increase in opioid overdoses
With summer comes the always-jarring increase in mopeds behaving badly, blaring ambulances roaring through town, and increased helicopter activity for medical evacuations at the Block Island State Airport. With the influx of workers and visitors, this is not unexpected, but still a dramatic change from the quiet “winter” months.
The evening of June 14 was particularly noisy. No, there was no mass casualty event at the airport, or a Hollywood crew practicing a scene for an “Apocalypse Now” sequel. Instead it was a planned training session for the Rhode Island National Guard during which helicopters, sometimes more than one at a time were landing, idling, and taking off for what seemed like a couple of hours, but ended at about 8:45 p.m.
The annual R.I. National Guard training occurs each summer over a two-week period, and the last day will be Saturday, June 21. For Tuesday’s training, there were two
UH-60 helicopters involved, and though the spokesperson for the Guard told The Block Island Times that it was the last “deliberately planned” training session at the Block Island airport, there could still be some unplanned practicing of approaches and landings.
None of the helicopters Tuesday evening were called by the Block Island Medical Center. “It wasn’t us,” said Alison Warfel. Warfel told The Times that there
had not been an unusual number of moped or bike accidents in the past few weeks, and most of the ambulance calls were for other medical reasons.
There have been some overdoses on Block Island in the past few weeks, though.
Police Chief Matthew Moynihan said he posted a message to social media accounts on Tuesday evening to warn people. On the New Shoreham Police Department Facebook page it reads: “We have seen an increase in opioid overdose incidents on Block Island in the last few weeks.” It goes on to warn people that:
1. If a pill is not from a pharmacy, it’s not real.
2. Don’t take medicines not prescribed for you.
3. Know how to use Naloxone and keep it handy.
Good Samaritan laws protect you if you administer naloxone. For free naloxone: https://preventoverdoseri.org/get-naloxone/.
Last year there was a training session on how to administer nalaxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, at the Block Island Chamber of Commerce. That may be repeated this year on June 23, when David Neill from the U.S. Attorney’s Office will visit the island to distribute nasal naloxone kits and other resources. Joining him will be staff from Anchor Recovery, the South County Prevention Coalition, the Block Island Prevention Coalition, and the Parent Support Network. Kits will be available throughout the day.
Naloxone (brand name, Narcan) kits do have expiration dates. Last year when The Block Island Times covered the training session, some kits were obtained for the office that expire in August 2023, so be sure to check your supplies to make sure your kits are not out of date. They also must be properly stored, so if they were stored in an unheated building over the winter, or were subject to excessive heat (over 104 degrees) they should be replaced.
Trends in illicit drug use are always changing, and one particularly troubling one the past few years has been contamination of drugs like cocaine with the synthetic and very powerful opoid fentanyl.
Warfel said the staff at the medical center is trained each year in what changes to look for so they can respond accordingly.