Recently, the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health received a $2.2 million grant to work with the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the grant to train first responders to administer naloxone, an opioid reversal agent. In the wake of 790 deaths in Arizona alone throughout 2016, Governor Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency.
In response, Taylor George, a UA alum and ADHS section chief of the Bureau of Emergency Services and Trauma System assisted in obtaining the grant and will lead the project.
AzCRH will help with educational elements, teaching police and other first responders how to identify symptoms and use naloxone.
“But we also want to go beyond that,” said AzCRH Director Daniel Derksen. "We want to do screening and brief intervention so we’re not just addressing the immediate issue of the overdose.”
In many cases, when overdoses take place in rural areas the nearest hospital or police station is 30-40 miles away.
“If you overdose with an opioid and stop breathing, it only takes about four minutes to do irreversible brain damage,” Derksen said.
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