Tulalip community members trained in overdose awareness

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A trail of signs was posted along Totem Beach Road leading to the Tulalip Dining Hall on Friday, August 31. Each sign displayed a single person silhouetted in purple, with the main Dining Hall sign saying, “Each nameless, faceless person represents a life lost to overdose.” Inside, the community gathered on International Overdose Awareness Day to remember lost loved ones, share personal stories and learn more about the opioid epidemic that has claimed more lives than the Vietnam War, in 2017 alone.  

In their second year hosting the annual International Overdose Awareness event, the Tulalip Community Health department united the people of Tulalip while shining light on a serious topic. The theme for this year’s event was Time to Pull Together and participants were invited to write personal messages to any friends or family members who lost their life due to an overdose, on large posters displaying traditional cedar paddles.  

“There was over 72,000 drug overdoses in the United States last year,” said Tulalip Interim Police Chief Sherman Pruitt to the group of attendees. “That’s almost two hundred people dying every day from overdose. In Snohomish county, the percentage of drug related deaths was approximately thirty-two percent in 2017; in the state of Washington, the number of drug related deaths was approximately thirty-three percent. The Tulalip tribal reservation drug related deaths is at two hundred and twenty-three percent.”

Gasps were heard from around the Dining Hall as the Chief shared this statistic. Event participants were shocked and shared a look of disbelief.

“It’s a serious problem,” he continued. “Our officers carry two Narcan kits on them and we are constantly using them. The Board of Directors wanted us to implement a Drug Task Force, so I started that in March. I’ve assigned officers to the task force so we can start addressing some of these issues with the individuals who are supplying drugs to our family members and community, and make sure we hold them accountable as well as provide services to get them the help that they need.”

Chief Pruitt also explained the Good Samaritan Law to the participants. The Tribe adopted the law back in 2014 after Lois Luella Jones died from an overdose. Authorities believe her life could have been saved, but in fear of arrest, her peers failed to contact emergency responders. 

“It’s okay to call,” he reassured. “Because of the Good Samaritan Law, you’re not going to get in trouble. Our priority as law enforcement officers is the preservation of life, so give us a call so we can provide assistance.”

Community members shared stories of addiction, heartbreak and loss from substance abuse. The Health Department also held a Narcan training for the community so they know how to quickly revive someone who has overdosed. The training was led by Gina Skinner and Jane Jacobson who explained in detail how the Narcan nasal spray works.

“In an overdose situation, the opiate has hit receptors in the body that cause respiratory depression and your pupils to get small. The Narcan comes in and kicks the opiate out of the receptors and takes its space,” explains Jane. “That makes the patient go into a withdrawal and it allows their respiratory rate to improve, making it easier to breathe and they start to come out of that overdose situation. But they have to get treatment within about thirty to ninety minutes otherwise the opiate could come back and kick the Narcan out of the receptor and cause an overdose situation again.”

The Tulalip Bay Fire Department joined the trainers to give insight on their procedure during overdose emergencies and how they utilize Narcan. Each participant who attended the training received a free Narcan kit. Tulalip community members are encouraged to pick up a kit of their own, free to Tulalip tribal members at Tulalip Family Services and available to community members through their insurance at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic pharmacy.

“This was our second annual International Overdose Awareness Day event,” states Tulalip Community Health Director, Jenna Bowman. “It’s important that we let people know we’re here and we’re creating awareness about things they can do to help prevent overdose and also a space just to be around other family members who may be suffering. As a community, we’re all connected, we’re all suffering. There’s always been a stigma behind talking about overdose and addiction and I think it’s important we move passed that and support each other, whether we’re going through it and lost someone or maybe we’re struggling to find the answers ourselves. It’s important that we support each other.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Community Health Department at (360) 716-5622.

Life is the best gift of all

Tulalip Pharmacist Jane Jacobson describes the contents and uses of a Narcan kit, which are available at the Tulalip Pharmacy. Photo/Niki Cleary, Tulalip News
Tulalip Pharmacist Jane Jacobson describes the contents and uses of a Narcan kit, which are available at the Tulalip Pharmacy.
Photo/Niki Cleary



by Niki Cleary, Tulalip News 

It’s the time of year that we gather together with our family, reminisce about favorite memories and create new ones. While the holidays are a time of love and generosity, for those down on their luck they can be a painful reminder of better times. Holidays can also bring the added stress of creating the perfect holiday experience (usually accompanied by consumer debt) and they can heighten emotions grief and loss. Many cope with the stress and pain by leaning on prescription drugs or opiates.

Too often deaths in our community are a result of drug overdose. According to a report released early this year, one out of every five heroin deaths in the State occurred in Snohomish County (you can view the report http://www.snohd.org/Records-Reports/Data-Reports). Combined with the fact that drug use spikes during the holidays, chances are someone you know may be in danger of opiate overdose this season.

Other than abstinence, there’s no surefire way to prevent overdose, and the stigma surrounding addiction often prevents people from being willing to even discuss the possibility of a family member’s use or potential overuse of drugs. Tulalip citizen Rico Madison lost his mother to an opiate overdose; the experience has made him passionate about changing the culture of hiding drug addiction.

“I do this because everybody has someone close to them,” he said. “Everyone has been in a situation where they rejected someone who asked for help, or someone they wish they could have helped.”

One of the primary tools to offset the harm of drug addiction is Narcan, also known as Naloxone.

“Narcan is a way to help without enabling,” Rico continued. “It’s like a fire extinguisher, it can’t hurt, it can only help.”

Rico campaigns constantly to encourage everyone to purchase a Narcan kit. Most insurances will cover at least part of the cost.

The simple explanation of a deadly opiate overdose is that the effects of opiates cause your brain to shut down the normally automatic impulse to breathe. Without oxygen to the body, the heart stops and brain damage and death follow. Narcan is a narcotic antagonist; it blocks opiate receptors, which can temporarily halt the effects of the opiate.

Tulalip Pharmacist Jane Jacobson explained, “This is not a fix, it’s a last resort. A dose will wear off in 30-90 minutes, so you still need to call 911, because when it wears off the patient will be back into overdose.”

She described the ‘look’ of an opiate overdose, “They may look like they’re sleeping. They may be breathing very slowly. They may breathe in a long, slow gasp, followed by a long pause. They may have blue or gray lips or may be unresponsive. When a person is only breathing 5-10 breaths a minute, you are looking at brain damage.

“If you even think someone may be overdosing on opiates administer Narcan immediately,” she instructed. “It only works on opiates, if someone is overdosing on something else, this won’t hurt them. There are two doses in your kit. If there’s no effect within two to three minutes, use the other syringe, start rescue breaths and call 911.”

Due to Rico’s activism, Tulalip enacted the Lois Luella Jones Good Samaritan Law, a law that offers limited exemption from prosecution if a person calls 911 for help with an overdose.

“With the Good Samaritan Law you will not be arrested for drug paraphernalia, underage drinking, or non-violent misdemeanors,” explained Jane. “Sometimes addicts want to help, but they don’t call 911 because they’re afraid they will be arrested.”

Narcan kits are available at the Tulalip Pharmacy. Tulalip employee insurance covers the cost with only $8.00 co-pay, and Washington’s Applecare covers the kits at 100%. For the uninsured, the kits cost $105 for non-Tulalips and $65 for Tulalip citizens.


Each kit comes with a pharmacist’s consultation and purchasers watch a video that explains how to use it.
Each kit comes with a pharmacist’s consultation and purchasers watch a video that explains how to use it.
Photo/Niki Cleary


“We have a lot of kits in stock, made up and ready to go,” said Jane. She pointed out that the kits, while generally sought after by families and friends of those suffering addiction, are useful for many populations.

“We also recommend people on chronic pain management medications have kits on hand as well,” she said. “Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s here if you do. It’s better to have a kit just in case than be in a situation where you could have used it and saw a friend or family member pass away when you could have gotten something to save them.”

If you have a kit and use one dose, replace it even though there’s another dose still in the kit.

“You always want the second dose,” said Jane, reminding that sometimes a single dose isn’t enough to halt the overdose. Each kit comes with a pharmacist’s consultation and purchasers watch a video to explain how to use it. Narcan is prescribed as a four-day supply, so a client can pick up a new kit every four days if they choose.

“If people want to come in and get kits as a family, we can do that too,” said Jane.

“I don’t want to go to another funeral because of overdose,” said Rico. “I want people to understand that it’s easy, it’s the difference between life and death and it only takes 20 minutes.”

A fire extinguisher, a life preserver, a first aid/CPR class; we don’t think twice about most tools designed to save lives. If you can learn something or buy something and save someone’s life, it’s a no-brainer, right? Narcan is no different. This holiday season, while you’re shopping and heading to and from dinners and holiday parties, please think about scheduling a trip to the Tulalip Pharmacy to pick up a Narcan kit. It may be that the greatest gift you give this year, is saving someone’s life.