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Siblings Devoted to Saving Heroin Users From Overdosing With Life-Saving Drug


Siblings Devoted to Saving Heroin Users From Overdosing With Life-Saving Drug


Jennifer and Sam Plumb lost their brother, Andy, to a heroin overdose in 1996 at the age of 22. Their tragic loss motivated the Utah-based siblings to do what they could to prevent others from meeting the same fate. In 2015, They founded Utah Naloxone an organization that donates naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose, into the hands of anyone who needs it. So far, they have distributed more than 15,000 free naloxone rescue kits to communities throughout the state.

1) What sort of impact do other families have on what you do, i.e. what type of stories have you heard that have ignited you into action?

The struggles and judgment faced by other families have been very impactful for us. The number of families experiencing judgment and stigma is staggering, and the stories we hear are truly heartbreaking and crushing. We know many people who have lost someone so precious to them and know many more who are facing the possibility of such loss every single day. Often times we have been told that people feel like no one really cares if their loved one lives or dies. It is not like dealing with a cancer diagnosis, for example, where communities rally to support those struggling with the disease. In the realm of substance abuse disorder and addiction, people are judged as making “poor choices” and they often feel like they are shamed for their disease. Sadly, this leads them to feel as if they cannot seek out help and support from anyone. All too often, when seeking help, these people are turned away or their families are denied access to naloxone. These families have shown us the meaning of strength and commitment and have also demonstrated tremendous efforts to equip others around them. They are responsible for multiple lives saved across this state.

2) What is your greatest challenge to getting more naloxone into the hands of the people who need it?

People at risk of overdose death and their families are not always able to access naloxone. Whether it is because of financial resources, access to care, or embarrassment, there are numerous hurdles that people face in getting what they need. We have been able to undertake partnerships with other entities and organizations who help us get in contact with those at risk. For example, we have partnered with the Salt Lake City Fire Department, who launched a program to leave our naloxone rescue kits on scene with family and friends to be used should an overdose event occur in the future. They are able to reach people that we would otherwise be unable to reach.

3) How can others help?

Others can help by exploring ways to dialogue about overdose risk and making the conversation not only acceptable but encouraged. These conversations are not shameful and really should be a part of our society’s daily responsibilities. We are losing about 175 people per day in the U.S. to overdose death (the majority are opiate-related). The situation is too dire to leave people in the shadows.

4) How do you think society needs to change the way it views the addicted? 

There truly needs to be a global culture shift away from judging those with substance use disorder and addiction. There is simply no place for viewing these people and their families as anything less than deserving of our assistance, our support, and our belief that we want the best for them. People with addictions are not bad people trying to get good; they are sick people trying to get well. There needs to be parity in the way we view “physical ailments” and “mental ailments.” Having a medical condition is simply that–a medical condition. No one would ever tell a person whose cancer had relapsed that they “just didn’t chemo hard enough,” but many are very quick to imply that those with addiction experiencing a relapse “just didn’t work hard enough or care enough about their life.” The judgment and stigmatization of people are resulting in lives lost.

5) What gives you hope and inspires you to keep moving forward? 

We are inspired by the heroism of everyday people. The “life savers” in our communities are not those we typically think of. They are not just physicians and paramedics. They are moms and dads, siblings, friends, law enforcement officers, security guards, individuals who do outreach in all segments of society, and they are even strangers. We are constantly humbled by the actions of those who want to ensure that people do not die preventable deaths. These people understand how crucial it is that they step up in crisis situations and save lives, and they are doing it. We are aware of over 1800 lives saved by these non-medical laypersons, which is both amazing and frightening. The efforts of so many continue to inspire and humble us.

For more information about Utah Naloxone, [CLICK HERE]


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