The airport has installed seven NaloxBox kits, which are stocked with protective gloves, masks and four doses of the opioid-overdose antidote nalaxone.
GREEN A series of new boxes placed throughout the Akron-Canton Airport could save a life.
The airport recently installed seven portable emergency overdose kits. The NaloxBox kits are stocked with protective gloves, masks and four doses of the opioid-overdose antidote nalaxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan.
Like the adjacent automated external defibrillator the boxes, the kits are designed to save lives in the minutes before emergency personnel can arrive. The boxes are tripped with an alarm, so airport security can respond quickly.
"We want to be proactive rather than reactive," said President and CEO Renato “Ren” Camacho.
The kits are placed throughout the airport, both before and after security. One kit is inside airport operations outside of the main terminal.
The airport purchased four of the boxes, which run about $250 each, from its community fund. The airport didn't use public money for the purchase, Camacho said.
The other three were donated by the nonprofit Cover2 Resources. The nalaxone is provided by the Summit County Health Department.
The airport is one of the first in the country to install the boxes, Camacho said.
In the last two years, emergency personnel have responded to the airport four times for a report of an overdose.
"If you save one life, it's worth the investment," he said.
Community of first responders
The boxes are part of an effort by the Green Drug Task Force to build a "community of first responders."
Nalaxone is already carried by emergency personnel and available without a prescription at many area pharmacies. But the city is working to make the drug as available as possible, the same way you'd find a defibrillator in a public place, said Mayor Gerard Neugebauer.
"I don't want Green to have a stigma of being a drug area, we certainly are not an epicenter of drug use, I know our rates are less than other communities. But what I wanted to be distinctive in Green is that we're working hard to help our residents with the issues they have," he said.
The Task Force focused on the Interstate 77 corridor. Research showed that many overdoes happened at businesses along the corridor, and often involved folks traveling through Green, he said.
The city approached hotels along the corridor. Four agreed to install the boxes behind their front desk. The airport was the next step.
Green also spread the word about the smartphone app, NaloxoFind, which allows someone to locate nalaxone within a two-mile radius of their location. It also alerts anyone who's signed up as a carrier with the app to be notified when someone is seeking nalaxone, so they can find the individual and help administer a dose.
The idea isn't to supplant first responders but to assist in a situation where someone else can arrive quicker, Neugebauer said.
Along with coordinating the boxes, the Task Force trains employees at every business where one is installed.
Employees are taught how to recognize an overdose, how to administer naloxone and how to help someone recover until emergency personnel can arrive.
The training is more than learning how to respond in an emergency. It's about breaking down stigma and boosting awareness of opioid addiction, Neugebauer said.
Opioids used to be a "silent killer," and the stigma surrounding addiction made the epidemic worse, he said. "We need to reverse those trends."
The program is a way to break the cycle of thinking that someone with a drug problem doesn't deserve attention or compassion, he said.
The first responder program could be expanded throughout Ohio, and even nationwide, to other cities with transportation corridors, Neugebauer said.
"If I had my way, I'd work around the state to get everyone, every community, to make this the standard, not the exception," he said.
On Sept. 17, Green will host a business outreach program with a goal of bringing more awareness and education to the issue and signing more businesses to the NaloxBox program. For more information, see cityofgreen.org/drug-task-force.
"I think the community has to open their hearts to those struggling. Anything we can do to help people, to help reduce the stigma, to help our society recognize this problem, is a worthy cause," Neugebauer said. "It's worth the time and energy to get people through what they're struggling with."
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