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State-provided naloxone draws long lines in Carlisle

Written by Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health | Dec 13, 2018 10:13 PM

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David Braithwaite, left, signs a document and gets state-provided naloxone from Hayley Eager, right, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)

(Carlisle) -- David Braithwaite is standing next to his pickup truck in a parking lot outside the Cumberland County health center.

As it says on his hat, he's a chaplain for something called Carlisle Truck Stop Ministry. Braithwaite says he and another chaplain minister seven days a week to truck drivers, homeless people and anyone else who shows up and needs help.

Braithwaite is one of a half-dozen people who got to the health center at least a half hour before it opened. The health center is just one of about 80 locations across Pennsylvania where the state has made the opioid reversal drug naloxone available to anyone. The state has allocated $5 million to the two-year opioid distribution program, which it sees as one part of a multi-department effort to curb opioid addiction in a state that lost more than 5,400 people in 2017.

The 66-year-old retired postal service employee is friendly and talkative, but his cheerful demeanor changes when he starts talking about drug addiction.

"We have had a number of individuals who have passed away from overdose," he says. "Young people. It is so frustrating and so heart-wrenching."

The self-described conservative pragmatist says he has mixed feelings about handing out naloxone to revive people who have had a drug overdose.

However, he knows of at least one person at the truck stop who was revived by naloxone. He says, if he might be able to save someone's life, he wants to be ready to do it.

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Brittney Webster stands for a portrait outside of a state health center in Carlisle where she got naloxone provided by the state. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)

By the time he gets to the front of the line, at least a dozen people are behind him, some streaming out the health center door.

Some in line know first-hand how hard it is to beat opioid addiction.

Twenty-eight year old Brittney Webster has been in recovery for six years, after a 30-day inpatient rehab and a lot of work. She works as a residential coordinator at The RASE Project, a nonprofit inspired by mental health advocacy groups that aims to help people who are recovering from addictions.

Webster says naloxone is so important to her, she plans to drive to another location, in Harrisburg, to get more. She plans to give it out to people in the recovery community who she meets through the RASE Project.

When asked about why she showed up, she starts to tear up--thinking of all the people she knew who died of drug overdoses. It's been an emotional day, she says. Scrolling the comments section of Facebook didn't help. She says too many people don't understand how addiction works, or how important naloxone is for saving lives.

"People have to be alive to get the help that they need," she says. "So, that's what this is. It gives people a chance to choose recovery again."

Published in Cumberland County

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