Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 @ 3:32 p.m. / Community

Nurse's Quick Use of Narcan Reverses Drug Overdose; Del Norte Part Of National Effort to Combat Opioid Addiction in Rural Communities

In October 2021, the Del Norte County Sheriff seized fentanyl and methamphetamine. | Courtesy of the DNSO

Rachel Feldsine took in her surroundings.

She noticed the lighter, the hard plastic straw, the soda can with the bottom cut out and the bottle of alcohol. Then she looked at the young woman on the ground.

“Her face was completely blue. Her lips were purple. She wasn’t breathing,” Feldsine said. “So I ran to the glove box, got my Narcan, ran over to her and administered two doses, and she started to come through.”

Feldsine, a nurse who helps run Pelican Bay State Prison’s medically-assisted drug treatment program, had decided to take Elk Valley Road home from work last Monday. She was near Iowa Street when she noticed people hovering over someone on the side of the road. They were trying to call an ambulance for the young woman, Feldsine told the Wild Rivers Outpost.

Feldsine said she recognized the opioid overdose through her work at the prison and through personal experience.

The young woman was overdosing on fentanyl, Del Norte County Sheriff Garrett Scott said.

“I interviewed her after she came out of it,” Scott told the Outpost. “She said, ‘It’s my birthday and I did a little bit of fentanyl and that was it. I felt myself going out of it and there wasn’t anything I could do.’”

Feldsine saved the woman's life, the sheriff said. He said he helped the woman connect with Jermaine Brubaker, founder of Rx Safe Del Norte, in the hopes that Brubaker could help her find treatment.

Brubaker, who has been distributing naloxone and training people how to use it to reverse an opioid overdose through RX Safe Del Norte since 2019, is part of a local team that’s participating in the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Reaching Rural Initiative.

Del Norte is one of eight counties participating in the initiative, said District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey. It’s the only county in California participating and one of three on the West Coast. The initiative met for the first time in January. Members will travel to Washington D.C. later this month to discuss education, treatment and other programming to stem the tide of opioid abuse in rural communities.

In addition to Brubaker, Del Norte County’s team on the Reaching Rural Initiative includes Yurok Associate Judge William Bowers II; Del Norte County Superior Court Judge Darren McElfresh; Del Norte Health and Human Services Director Ranell Brown; Shiann Hogan, Behavioral Health program manager; and public defender Elly Hoopes.

Hoopes is focusing on addressing opioid addiction in juveniles, Starkey said.

Starkey said she and her colleagues on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors learned about the opportunity to participate in the Reaching Rural Initiative through their county counsel last fall.

“It’s an initiative where it’s a pilot program for the Bureau of Justice Assistance,” Starkey said. “They are looking to figure out ways for rural communities to address the opioid crisis because it looks different than the larger urban areas. Hopefully we can create a model other rural areas can use.”

According to Starkey, the year-long initiative puts Del Norte County and teams from the other participating counties in touch with federal grant writers and substance abuse treatment providers. The goal is to leverage Opioid Settlement Fund dollars and partner with local tribes to come up with a regional solution to the opioid epidemic, Starkey told the Outpost.

One topic of discussion that has come up is the need for local places to detox and recover from an opioid overdose, Brubaker said. A local residential treatment service is also needed, Brubaker said. Currently, most are sent to Southern California for in-treatment opioid addiction treatment and it’s difficult for those folks to integrate back into their hometown, she said.

The closest narcotic replacement therapy clinic is in Humboldt County, according to Brubaker.

“The high end would be actual in-county treatment services,” she said. “But it’s awesome because (the initiative) is collaboration with the courts and county behavioral health.”

When asked about Feldsine and the fact that she had Narcan with her when someone needed it, Brubaker said “everybody’s” asking for naloxone. Del Norte Unified School District will have naloxone on campus and will make sure their staff knows how to administer it.

It’s available over the counter at the Del Norte Wellness Center.
Brubaker said she distributed 200 naloxone kits at the Point-in-Time survey on Jan. 25 and she has about 1,200 units on order for anyone else who wants them.

“More people know they’re doing fentanyl as well, and they’re pairing it a lot with methamphetamine for uppers and downers. People who used to be primarily meth users are now using fentanyl as well on purpose,” Brubaker said. “But it’s really hard to regulate the fentanyl that’s coming in. It could be really deadly and it’s really hard to get a good dosage that’s not going to hurt somebody. By the time you administer Narcan that’s going to save that person’s life.”

Feldsine said she began carrying Narcan with her because she noticed the prevalence of opioids in the community, especially fentanyl. She said her 11-year-old son even found a baggie containing fentanyl wrapped in tinfoil in their yard and knew to bring it to her.

Feldsine said her son also knows how to administer Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose, saying she wanted to make sure he was prepared. She mentioned the group of people around the young woman overdosing on the side of Elk Valley Road.

“They had no clue what to do — they were terrified,” Feldsine said. “I think educating not only kids, but adults too in what to do with Narcan and making it easier for people to get would do a lot.”


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