Confronting opioid addiction, abuse

Apr 18, 2017

UMES to host free strategy clinic April 29

Credit UMES Office of Public Relations

Lower Delmarva residents who know someone struggling with opioid use can get answers to their questions Saturday, April 29 at a free information-exchange clinic sponsored by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Students in UMES' School of Pharmacy & Health Professions have organized workshops and training in the use of a rapid antidote to help an overdose victim. Those completing the 30-to-40 minute hands-on instruction will receive free Narcan™ nasal spray to administer in an opioid rescue. 

In addition to front-line health care practitioners sharing their advice, UMES students have arranged for those attending to receive a free breakfast and lunch as well as childcare services. 

“Just come,” said Dr. James Bresette, a pharmacy professor advising student-organizers, “We want to help our neighbors help our communities.” 

The event starts at 8 a.m. in UMES' Student Services Center, followed by breakfast at 9 a.m. The mother of Paul Montalvo, a UMES graduate student who died a year ago from an opioid overdose, will be among those offering remarks at the start of the event. 

“Julie Montalvo is a brave woman,” said Dr. Rondell Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy & Health Professions. , “She has committed herself to trying to help others avoid what she and her husband have experienced.” 

Student-organizers recommend people interested in attending pre-register at https://soaar.typeform.com/to/jXowGk so they can plan accordingly. 

They've dubbed the event “Substance & Opioid Abuse Awareness Response” - S.O.A.A.R., an acronym inspired by the university's mascot, a red-tailed hawk. 

Among local experts conducting workshops, which will be held concurrently and throughout the morning, are: 2013 UMES alumnus Donald D'Aquila, a clinical pharmacist with Shore Regional Health (University of Maryland Medical System), Tyantha Randall of Hudson Health Services and William Johnson, a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist. 

Scott Baker, a second-year pharmacy student from Snow Hill, said he and classmates wanted to provide the community with a public service project that “would make a true difference in people's lives.” 

“Opioid abuse is in the news everywhere you turn,” Baker said. “It's a serious problem that we know is out there. As medication experts and stewards, pharmacists have a professional and moral imperative to help lead this charge.” 

The morning workshops are scheduled so participants can take in several before lunch featuring a panel discussion. 

Among the panelists will be Debbie Wessels, an educator who lost her 23-year-old son Mac to an opioid overdose, then shared her heartbreaking story in a Salisbury Independent newspaper article published Feb. 9.

Bresette said the Narcan™ training is a key component to the day's activities. 

“An overdose can have catastrophic effects very rapidly,” he said. “Often-times emergency responders cannot get to a victim quickly enough. Equipping our community members with the means and skill to render aid in a suspected opioid overdose is a vital first step in this fight to save lives.” 

Student-organizers say they are motivated by a slogan they crafted for the event: “Rise Above - S.O.A.A.R. Above.”