Keith Arvanitis, regional director of Amistad’s Midcoast division, stands behind a table of free resources including hygiene supplies, food, and Naloxone. The table will be outside the Bath Area Food Bank every Thursday this month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Photo courtesy of Amistad

BATH — A local group will be distributing free hygiene items, food and a life-saving drug for opioid overdoses Thursday in Bath for those struggling with substance use disorder, mental illness and chronic homelessness.

Amistad’s Peer Learning Community will be distributing naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, as well as training on how to administer it.

The resource table will be placed outside the Bath Area Food Bank at 807 Middle St. every Thursday this month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Keith Arvanitis, regional director of Amistad’s Midcoast division, said the nonprofit created the table of free resources because their offices have been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now there’s no place for people can go to for these supports, so we felt the need to come into the community,” he said. “Connection is what is most important, especially when seeking support and sustaining treatment.”

Arvanitis said offering people free naloxone during the pandemic may be especially helpful because the shut down can create stressors related to health, finances and where their next meal will come from.

“For someone who is caught in the cycle of addiction, those are some big stressors that could cause a relapse or perpetuate addiction,” he said.

The center has connected with over 40 people in the Bath and Brunswick area in the past two weeks, according to Arvanitis.

In the US, drug overdose deaths declined from 70,000 in 2017 to 68,000 in 2018, a 3% decrease, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Maine saw a more significant dropoff in overdose deaths, going from 417 in 2017 to 354 in 2018.

There were eight overdose deaths in Sagadahoc County last year, according to Melissa Fochesato, Mid Coast Hospital director of health promotion.

In the Medicaid program, Maine went from 351 naloxone prescriptions in 2017 to 735 in 2018, the Portland Press Herald reported.

In 2018 Maine passed a law that allows people to buy naloxone at pharmacies without a prescription.

“Naloxone saves lives and is an important tool in our fight against Substance Use Disorder,” said Dr. Leah Bauer with Mid Coast Hospital’s Addiction Resource Center. “While it is not a substitute for treatment, it can give people fighting substance use disorder a second chance by reviving them from an impending overdose and providing a window of opportunity to begin treatment. For this reason, we feel it is important that there is a large amount of Naloxone available in our community.”

Arvanitis said anyone is welcome to take a naloxone kit and receive training on how to use it.

“You don’t have to be someone in active use,” he said. “You could be a relative, friend or neighbor. Ultimately, just we want to save lives.”

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