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July 5, 2013

CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
(617) 704-6682


Suffolk County House of Correction Superintendent Yolanda Smith (at the podium) addresses graduates of the Department’s Third Annual Opioid Overdose Peer Prevention class.

More than fifty participants gathered at the Suffolk County House of Correction to partake in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department’s Third Annual Opioid Overdose Peer Prevention class graduation ceremony. Attendees included employees of the Department, inmates, family and friends of inmates, and even members of other substance abuse programs and initiatives from around the City of Boston.

First introduced at the Suffolk County House of Correction (HOC) two years prior, the program’s directive is to educate each inmate about how to protect themselves and others from the dangers of drug overdose.

The six–week program, which now has 305 graduates, aims to “educate, raise awareness and train people in harm reduction; responding to opioid overdose emergencies in an informed and timely manner; understanding the steps involved in addressing an opioid overdose situation, the use of NARCAN and the steps that follow during an opioid overdose reversal.” The Opioid Overdose Peer Prevention program was originally piloted at the House of Correction and is the only one of its kind in New England.

During the ceremony, two graduates of the program conducted a presentation to inform the audience of the benefits of NARCAN and explain about how it is used. Program graduate “Keith” said, “60% of overdoses are witnessed, yet in 79% of those cases, bystanders either don’t know what to do or don’t act.” He also emphasized that this information is particularly important for inmates nearing the end of their sentences. “You are at the highest risk of overdosing upon release.”

In addition, two participants offered personal testimonies that served to illustrate the program’s power.

“Bobby,” a former heroin addict, described a time when he looked death in the face, overdosing after having used the drug with a friend. “[The guy] panicked and left me in the basement. I was left there overnight,” he said. “I lost my hearing, partial eyesight, and had to learn how to walk again on my own.”

“Sheldon,” a program graduate from Roxbury, is a strong advocate of NARCAN and believes that the information he learned could save a life.

“A person doesn’t have to die behind addiction anymore,” he said. “I’d advise everyone, if you know about it, make it a part of your first aid kit.”

One by one, each graduate walked up to accept their certificate and become a part of a small community of informed people looking to fight substance abuse.

Other speakers for the event, including Superintendent of the House of Correction Yolanda Smith and Deborah Milbauer from the Roxbury/JP Substance Use Coalition, urged the graduates to share their knowledge with others as a way to combat substance abuse.

“You guys are talking about it and getting that information out to your families and that’s critical,” said Milbauer. “Continue to tell people in your lives [about the program] when you get out. You can help to save lives.”


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