If you don’t know anyone who has been touched by the opioid crisis, you’re fortunate. You may also be surprised. At some point you may find that the crisis is actually closer than you knew.
You may learn that an in-law is struggling, and the spouse of an acquaintance, and the relative of a co-worker. That’s how it happened for me.
The “crisis” isn’t exactly like the story that appeared in The New York Times in October. That article retold the sad state of Kensington’s unhoused addicts living under the El. Photos taken for the paper by Drexel alumnus Jeffrey Stockbridge ’05 depict desperate half-lives.
Or, maybe it is exactly like that. “A lot of people first came to Kensington because a car accident or surgery had left them addicted to painkillers,” the NYT author wrote.
Either way, the problem isn’t confined to a tent city by the tracks anymore. An overdose can happen anywhere, an addict can be anybody, and the only antidote is naloxone, or Narcan.
In April, the Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory recommending that Narcan be made more freely available, but not all states have laws that ensure access to it or that protect health care professionals who distribute it to laypeople. In Pennsylvania, Narcan can usually be obtained by the public at a pharmacy, but it may not be available for pickup on the same day.
This edition’s cover story describes a program that gets Narcan directly into the hands of bystanders, many of whom never expected they’d have to contend with a deadly situation on their own doorsteps, inside their storefronts, or within their families. The Naloxone Outreach Program was created by College of Medicine students who visit Kensington on training missions to help residents spot an overdose and safely administer treatment. They’re now also teaching other students in health profession programs around the region, who in turn teach others, in what writer Ben Seal calls “a beneficent pyramid scheme built on the best of intentions.”
Philadelphia may not be able to help appearing in a bleak headline in The New York Times, but I’m proud that Drexel produces the kind of people who will step up and do something about it.
As always, thanks for reading.
Sonja Sherwood / Editor
ABOUT THE COVER: Illustrated by Brian Stauffer.