ACPHS In The News

ACPHS Pharmacy Students, Residents Train Community to Save Lives

ACPHS staff and pharmacy residents at the Collaboratory dispense information on International Opioid Awareness Day
September 2, 2022

Pharmacy students and residents moving through their rotations gained real-life experience in training others to save lives on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

On International Overdose Awareness Day, students and residents distributed information and trained people on how to use naloxone (a.k.a. Narcan), the antidote that reverses an opioid overdose, at locations throughout Saratoga County and in Albany’s South End neighborhood.  The Saratoga County team, which also included Albany Medical College students and employees at Saratoga Community Health Center, gave out more than 250 kits of the life-saving medicine.

Associate Professor Jacqueline Cleary, who practices at Saratoga Community Health Center, coordinated ACPHS’ efforts in several primary care offices throughout Saratoga County to participate in the worldwide event.  Residents Myriam Daley and Nafisul Ghani, who work at the Collaboratory along with Public Health Pharmacist Jacqueline Dwyer, also staffed a table at the headquarters of Trinity Alliance, which provides services to support families in Albany’s South End. 

The busiest location for ACPHS staff and residents was a primary care site in Wilton Mall, where student Cohan Anderson and resident Kara Olstad distributed their full stock of 26 naloxone kits after teaching people how to use them.  Dr. Michael Dailey, an emergency medicine specialist at Albany Med, and Capt. Dan Morley of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office also visited the Wilton Mall location, where they provided additional training kits and talked about their efforts to improve access to the life-saving antidote. 

“We were able to hear some stories from patients and staff who had been touched by the opioid epidemic personally, and that made the experience all the more rewarding,” Anderson said.

Residents Gurminder Sanghera and Mariam Gawdat trained community members and distributed 17 kits at a primary care office in Galway.  Sanghera was most struck by an interaction with a woman who asked to be trained so she could pass the knowledge on to her son, who was going away to college.  (On the ACPHS campus, naloxone training is an option for all resident assistants and Narcan is easily accessible in the dormitories.)

At a primary care office in Schuylerville, John-Roch Sears met a husband and wife who were eager to learn how to administer Narcan after seeing many news reports about overdoses, Sears said. 

“Interacting with these individuals gave me a sense of reassurance that people were still paying attention to the opioid crisis, even in the face of the recent events of the last three years, such as the Covid pandemic or the war in Ukraine,” said Sears, a 2023 Pharm.D. candidate.  “It felt great to make a huge difference with just ten minutes of time, which could be the difference between life and death for someone down the road.”

Indeed, the opioid crisis continues to wreak havoc in communities throughout the nation.  Opioids were involved in nearly 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2020 (the last year for which data are available), accounting for nearly 75 percent of all drug overdose deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In New York State, data released in July showed a 13 percent decrease in opioid overdoses outside of New York City between 2020 and 2021.  But the state Health Department warned in late August about an alarming increase in opioid overdoses in the central part of the state, likely linked to fentanyl.  State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett issued a statewide standing order for naloxone on August 15, allowing pharmacies to distribute it to customers without an individual prescription.