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 An Argentine Township resident is hoping to form more connections with organizations and churches to save people who overdose on opioids and fight the opioid epidemic. 

 Mike Bolton, creator and executive director of Rise Up Initiative, has 48 cases of Narcan to distribute. He’s distributed 348 hours so far. Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, which is a nasal spray that can reverse the respiratory effects of an opioid overdose. 

 Bolton works in harm reduction and education, as well as violence prevention and youth mentoring. He’s looking to partner with business leaders, churches and other organizations to train a few employees in how to use the Narcan and potentially set up more long-term connections in the community. 

 “Obviously, the overdoses are bad in our area,” he said. “There’s just not enough people out here working on this. A lot of people get high in business parking lots or church parking lots. I want to focus on communities that are hot spots.”

 Bolton said most people relapse within 30 days. There are cases where 2- or 3-year-olds find their parents illegal drugs, or teenagers take their drugs. 

 “It’s horrific,” he said. “This is what’s killing the kids.”

 The epidemic has worsened due to the pandemic. 

 Overdose-related cardiac arrests increased in the U.S. 42 percent in 2020, according to a study in JAMA Psychiatry. 

 More than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. from May 2019 to May 2020, which is the highest number of overdoses ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

 Overdoses were increasing before the pandemic, but the CDC states that these numbers suggest an “acceleration” of overdose deaths during the pandemic. 

 “The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

 Synthetic opioids, primarily illegally manufactured fentanyl, appear to be the primary drug involved, increasing 38.4 percent from the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared with the 12-month period leading up to May 2020.

 Opioids accounted for approximately 75 percent of all overdose deaths in the early months of the pandemic. 

 One CDC recommendation is to expand the distribution of Narcan and increase overdose prevention education. 

 He’s worked with the Argentine Township Police Department to train and pass out Narcan, and he praised the department for being proactive.

 “We need more of that. I think when people are more educated, they can understand how serious this is,” he said. 

 He’s worked in this community for years, and his goal is to continue to do so. He hosts Tuesday meetings from 7-8 p.m. at the Argentine Church of Nazarene on S. Seymour Road in Argentine Township for those seeking help. 

 His number is (248) 459-9465, and his email is riseupcommunity@outlook.com.

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