How NY Health Centers Are Reducing Opioid Overdoses

A network of New York state health centers is using safety planning, most often associated with reducing the risk of suicide, in an attempt to reduce opioid overdoses.

The Institute for Family Health, which has community health centers throughout New York City and in the Mid-Hudson region, has designed and begun to use two-page, personalized Harm Reduction and Early Recovery Safety Plans, which take into account the different ways in which a person might be at risk of an opioid overdose.

Opioid Overdose Reduction

Two Types of People at Risk

Active Users

One group of people at risk of an opioid overdose are those who are actively using opioids and may not be ready to stop. The harm reduction approach, which acknowledges that not everyone wants to be free from drugs, is the best way to get through to active users. The health center teaches users things they can do to take care of themselves and reduce possible health and other risks associated with using illicit drugs.

Recovering Users

The second group is those who have stopped using drugs. Some are intentionally working on recovery after treatment, while others may have stopped because they were incarcerated or are pregnant. Their at an increased risk of overdosing if they use opioids again because they have a lower tolerance than they did while they were active drug users. These people need an early recovery safety plan focused on maintaining sobriety.

Safety Plan Overdose Prevention Tips

  • Use a smaller amount after any period of abstinence!
  • Don’t mix drugs, prescriptions, and/or alcohol.
  • Use a less risky method.
  • Test the strength of the drug before you do the whole amount.
  • Do not use alone.
  • Do not share or reuse needles.
  • Develop an overdose plan with your friends or partner.
  • Do not use when having thoughts of suicide.
  • Keep a Naloxone “Narcan” Kit with you and learn how to use it.
  • Seek medical attention after an overdose, even if you were given Narcan.

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