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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 8, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, September 8, 2022
Fighting the opioid crisis at the Blue Hill Fair
OFIP praised by Hancock County sheriff

by Leslie Landrigan

Volunteers led by the Opiate-Free Island Partnership (OFIP) trained hundreds of people to use Narcan over four days at the Blue Hill Fair. Their efforts earned plaudits from Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane, who helped sponsor the event.

Narcan is a prescription medicine for the treatment of opioid overdoses. Kane said his wife, a teacher, carries it. Deputies all carry it on the road, and it’s available in the county jail, he said.

“Some people are negative about it. Here we deal with those overdoses, we deal with the families who’ve lost someone,” Kane said in a phone interview. “Whether you agree with it or not, it’s a lifesaver.”

Kane said the Narcan booth at the fair got started when he attended a meeting with OFIP. “They were talking about getting as much Narcan into the community as possible,” he said. “I knew the fair was coming up—that’s the biggest event in Hancock County.”

Kane also knew there was an empty space next to the Hancock County Sheriff’s booth at the fair. He asked the fair organizers if it would be OK for volunteers to distribute Narcan. It was and they did. According to Charlie Osborn, OFIP co-chairman, they handed out between 275 and 300 boxes of Narcan. Fairgoers also took 500 fentanyl test strips, Osborn said.

‘I Carry Narcan’

On the first night of the fair, volunteers set up a sandwich board with the “I Carry Narcan” slogan on it. On a table, they laid out strips of paper that test for fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid often cut into unregulated drugs.

The volunteers distributed boxes of Narcan in bags printed with the name of a sponsoring organization, Northern Light Health. Within the first four hours, they handed out more than 60 boxes of Narcan and trained the recipients in how to use it, according to Ashley Pesek, OFIP program director.

“There were several moments last night that I had to choke back tears,” Pesek wrote in a September 2 email shared with the Ad-Vantages. “There were people who lost family members, people in recovery, people who are here because of Narcan and they were sharing those stories. The gratitude from the community was overwhelming.”

Pesek described the cross section of people who visited the booth as “incredible.” She wrote, “There was literally no similarity in demographic which we know to be true of substance use disorder, but for staff that don’t do this all of the time it was enlightening.”

In addition to Northern Light and the sheriff’s office, sponsoring organizations included Health Equity Alliance and Island Health & Wellness Foundation.

“It was also wonderful the number of business owners or booth owners who stopped by because they want to be prepared,” wrote Pesek.

Kane said he was pleased with the reception to OFIP’s Narcan booth.

“They should be recognized for what they did,” Kane said. “The island’s been hit hard, there’s a tremendous amount of opioids there.”

He said someone who’s been saved by Narcan might have a light go on and then seek counseling to quit the habit.

“Trying to help someone, that’s the right thing to do,” Kane said.