The following is a submission from Mendocino Coast Clinics, a non-profit, federally qualified health center serving as a patient-centered medical home for people on the Mendocino Coast. MCC provides a team-based approach to care, offering medical, dental, behavioral health services, and more. Learn more at mendocinocoastclinics.org.
Fort Bragg, CA — In response to the continuing rise of drug overdoses in our coastal communities, Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) is partnering with the Fort Bragg Police Department, Fort Bragg Unified School District, and local pharmacies to make Narcan more readily available.
Narcan, also known as naloxone, is an over-the-counter nasal spray that can save someone in the throes of an opioid overdose by reversing the drug’s effects. Opioids include prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin as well as street drugs like heroin and Fentanyl—all of which are common in our area.
MCC Executive Director Lucresha Renteria said, “We want to normalize having Narcan on your person, in households, and at schools. People don’t realize how common opioids are–people of all ages and from all walks of life struggle with addiction. By having Narcan with you, you could save a family member, neighbor, or colleague. Narcan doesn’t work against all drugs, but it can be really effective with opioids.”
Renteria noted that some medical providers prescribe Narcan along with every new opioid prescription, not because they expect their patients to overdose, but because having such potent substances in the house can be dangerous.
She said, “It’s not necessarily about having [Narcan] for yourself. It could be for people who get into your pain pills when they shouldn’t–like your child or their friends. Accidental overdoses are a reality and make up a large part of the high number of overdoses in the county”
Narcan causes instant withdrawal, so it is important for people to understand how to administer it. Sometimes after a single dose, people wake up in a combative state. Other times, they need a second dose to be revived.
Renteria said, “If you are unsure about what substance may have caused the overdose, using Narcan may not help, but it’s worth trying because it will not harm the person in need–and it could save their life. Once the Narcan has been administered, 911 or emergency care should be initiated. That call should be made simultaneously if possible.”
The most recent California Department of Public Health data indicates that Mendocino County has a higher rate of opioid-related overdoses than any other California county. So, while Narcan is an important tool, it is not a permanent fix to the fight against substance use disorder.
MCC has a substance use disorder program led by Lin Taylor, PhD. It includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT), employing an FDA-approved anti-craving medicine called Suboxone, along with individual and group counseling to help patients address issues such as withdrawal and relapse. Case managers provide a single point of contact for appointments, medication refills, and other needs.
Within the past few years, the service expanded to a new location and MCC hired additional staff members, some of whom are bilingual and bicultural, allowing patients to receive support in English and Spanish.
Taylor said, “Our program provides a confidential and nonjudgmental place where people can seek support.”
In addition to schools and law enforcement, MCC partners with several organizations to reach as many people as possible, including the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, MCAVHN Care and Prevention Network, Mendocino County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and the Mendocino County Jail.
Taylor emphasized that the MAT program is one of several services. Others include the type of holistic support that people managing opioid use disorder need if they are to break the cycle of addiction, including anger management and support groups with access to online and in-person 12-step programs.
The Suboxone Program is open to anyone with or without health insurance—participants do not have to have a pre-existing relationship as an MCC patient to access these services.
Taylor said, “If you or somebody you know has opioid use disorder or substance use disorder and needs help, call MCC’s Suboxone Program team at (707) 969-7950. We’re here to help.”