The Burlington County Commissioners are taking action to save lives and combat the opioid addiction epidemic by purchasing overdose antidote boxes for schools in the county.
The Board voted unanimously Wednesday to use opioid settlement funds to obtain Overdose Emergency kits for high schools in Burlington County. The boxes are similar to wall-mounted automated external defibrillators cabinets but contain overdose reversal drug Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan.
In addition to purchasing the boxes, the County will provide training to athletic coaches, teachers and other school faculty on the safe administration of the overdose reversal drug.
“The opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of hundreds of Burlington County residents, including teenagers and children,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, the liaison to the Burlington County Department of Human Services. “No place is immune, so we’re acting to ensure our schools are properly equipped and their staff is trained in case an overdose occurs on school property.”
Hopson said the kits and training are part of the County’s comprehensive plan to combat the opioids epidemic. Installation of the boxes in high schools was also recommended by the Burlington County Opioid Regional Advisory Council created by the Commissioners last summer to provide input, advice and recommendations for disbursement of Burlington County’s opioid settlement funds.
More than 750 people have died from suspected drug overdoses in Burlington County since 2018. During that same period, Naloxone was administered on more than 3,800 occasions in the county.
Wednesday’s vote authorizes the Burlington County Department of Human Services to begin purchasing and distributing the kits to participating high schools across the county. The training program is expected to launch before the start of school this fall.
“Burlington County has been a state leader in responding to the opioid crisis and distributing Narcan has been a key part of our comprehensive strategy,” said Commissioner Deputy Director Tom Pullion. “The drug is proven to be effective in reversing overdoses from powerful narcotics, including fentanyl. We believe installing the kits in schools can help save more lives and eliminate some of the stigma that frequently surrounds substance use.”
The Commissioners passed a resolution last year declaring all of Burlington County to be stigma-free as part of a campaign to help dispel misconceptions about substance use disorder and other mental illnesses. By eliminating stigma, the Commissioners hope to raise awareness and encourage more residents to seek the help needed to overcome their conditions.
In addition to the Commissioners, many Burlington County towns and school districts have passed their own resolutions of support for the County initiative. The Burlington County Association of School Administrators has also endorsed the stigma-free campaign.
Among the other notable actions taken by Burlington County was the 2019 launch of the Hope One Mobile Outreach Unit that travels to various locations in the county to link residents with drug treatment specialists and recovery supports. Staff also distribute Narcan and train residents on its proper administration.
In 2021, Hope One had close to 1,900 contacts and helped 26 people enter treatment programs. The unit also distributed Narcan kits to 300 households.
The Department of Human Services has also received federal grant funding to supply and train first responders and other key community members on the safe administration of Narcan. Close to 300 kits have been distributed since that program launched in March this year.
The Commissioners also expanded recovery supports in the county with the launch of the Burlington County Recovery Center at the Human Services Building in Westampton and the Burlington County Community Peer Recovery Center located in City Hall in Burlington City.
Both centers are destinations where individuals can meet with recovery peers and obtain information about treatment programs, recovery support services and community resources. Wellness activities and classes are held there, and recovery groups like narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous hold meetings at both locations.
“Our County continues to develop new paths to help our residents access treatment and receive the vital services and support they need to beat this terrible disease,” said Hopson. “Each life we save is a victory and we continue to fight to save every life we can.”