NARCAN distributions ‘about saving lives’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Since its formation in late 2020, the dedicated staff of Tulalip’s Overdose Detection Mapping & Application Program (ODMAP) has been hard at work tracking and monitoring overdoses on the reservation. They are focused on promoting a healthy community and providing outreach work through accessible resources for those hit hardest by the opioid crisis.

Through their overdose mapping technology, it’s evident that the Mission Highlands and Silver Village housing projects are the leading overdose hotspots on the reservation. With this invaluable information in mind, the ODMAP team held potential lifesaving NARCAN distributions in both neighborhoods. NARCAN is a fast-acting drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. It can prevent death if administered quickly.

“NARCAN saves lives,” said Tashena Hill, ODMAP outreach specialist. “Until we can connect a person suffering from opioid use to treatment, we will wok with individuals, loved ones and concerned members of the community to make sure they are prepared to respond if an overdose does occur. We urge anyone who needs access to NARCAN to attend one of our distributions or, better yet, reach out to us directly so we can review the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to easily administer NARCAN. The mission of our department, including these free to the public distributions, is all about saving lives.”

How to save lives is a prevailing mission behind so many local, state and federal health departments as the nation comes to grips with yet another pandemic. This one is opioid-based and being super charged by a steady surge in fentanyl-laced street drugs.

According to provisional CDC data released March 16, an estimated 105,752 Americans died from overdoses in the 12-month span ending October 2021 – the highest number of overdose deaths recorded in the United States in a single 12-month period. Bringing the scope more local, Snohomish County logged 232 deaths from overdoses in 2020, which is also the most in recorded history. And if focused solely on the Tulalip membership, the scope reveals there have been at least 16 overdose deaths since the start of 2020.

It is with these sobering statistics in mind that programs like Tulalip’s ODMAP are prioritizing making lifesaving resources assessible and bringing them directly to where they are needed most. By going directly into the neighborhoods at most risk of producing more overdoses, the ODMAP team and their NARCAN distributions are impossible to miss, with their drive-thru like setup and rallying signs to nab the attention of passers-by. 

Their Mission Highlands distribution was held on Valentine’s Day, when twenty-five NARCAN kits were given away. Silver Village’s distribution took place on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, and was even more successful as thirty-plus NARCAN kits were given out. 

“We’re bringing the resources to the people,” said ODMAP project coordinator, Kali Joseph. Armed with her upbeat attitude and ‘NARCAN SAVES LIVES’ sign, she corralled several vehicles as they entered the Silver Village main entrance where they were then greeted by Tashena or Jackson Nahpi. Together they reviewed everything in the Tulalip Pharmacy Narcan Kit and answered any questions that were asked. 

“For the simple fact that NARCAN can save lives, it’s worth having in every Tulalip household. It just furthers the conversation and makes it not a taboo subject. I carry one on myself in any situation, just to have it accessible in case I’m a bystander and it’s needed…because you never know,” shared Kali.

“It’s so important that as a community we destigmatize substance use disorder (SUD) because often times its mistaken as a moral failing or personal choice,” she added. “As Native people, we are overrepresented in SUD and overdoses and things like depression and suicide. A lot of the SUD may stem from impact of intergenerational and historical trauma. There’s a lot of social factors at play as well.”

Normalizing NARCAN and viewing it like an inhaler or EpiPen that can be used as an antidote to revive people from the brink of death is an effortless way of practicing effective harm prevention. NARCAN is a nasal spray. It looks like a common antihistamine and is administered by squirting directly into the nose. It is not dangerous to the person administering it, and it will not hurt anyone who doesn’t have opioids in their system. Plus, anyone administering NARCAN is protected by the Good Samaritan law.

The degree of disclosure at both of ODMAP’s neighborhood NARCAN distributions was perspective altering. Several citizens shared with members of the ODMAP team their experiences, both personal and as witnesses, with opioid overdose and how NARCAN saved the day. One young lady shared she keeps NARCAN at the ready because her mother is a heroin user and fears she’ll find her overdosing one day. Another young man disclosed his partner overdosed in the past and if it weren’t for NARCAN, she probably wouldn’t have made it.

While future distributions are in the works, ODMAP is also considering going door to door in order to reach their goal of having a NARCAN kit in each Tulalip household. In the meantime, if you’re a Tulalip community member and would like to receive a free NARCAN kit please call or text 360-722-2255 or visit