January 13, 2020 - On Thursday, January 9, a man was dying on an Ukiah sidewalk, unresponsive and likely suffering from an opioid overdose, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office. A motorist flagged down a sheriff deputy, who then saved the man's life by administering the opioid antidote called Narcan.
This is the second time in less than a month, sheriff deputies have used Narcan to rescue someone from the brink of a death from an opioid overdose death.
The epidemic has hit Mendocino County especially hard compared to the rest of the state. The county ranked 3rd in California for opioid deaths for 2017. That’s 3rd out of 58 counties.
Law enforcement now routinely carry Narcan - and it’s available for free - MCAVHN in Ukiah and through county-wide partners in Mendocino’s Safe Rx Coalition and the Mendocino County Public Health Department.
But Narcan is used when someone has already overdosed and stopped breathing. The obvious goal is to prevent an overdose from happening in the first place.
Locally, doctors, nurses, clinicians and social workers now have a potent tool as a first step in treatment.
It’s called Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT — and there are at least nine locations throughout the county, where anyone can get this help.
One of those places is at Adventist Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, where Dr. Juliet LaMers, was funded through the state California Bridge program to train and educate providers to dispense the medicine in the emergency department.
Dr. LaMers, like many local providers, is working to flip the script on addiction - so it is treated compassionately as a medical issue such as diabetes, rather than as a moral failure.
Once patients get the medicine in the emergency department, they are then connected with a specialist who makes a hand off to the patient’s preferred MAT clinic - clinics that are dotted around the county.
At Howard, that support person is Mary Anne Cox, who spends her days criss-crossing the county, driving people to appointments, helping them fill out job applications, get on insurance - whatever she can do to offer support to people trying to shake off addiction.
It’s been almost a year since Mary Ann Cox has been working as a Substance Use Navigator and already she’s helped to support more 300 county residents with a substance use disorder.
County resources and locations offering Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
(information, courtesy of Mendocino County Safe Rx Coalition - https://www.saferxmendocino.com/en/)
Mendocino Community Health Clinic
Care for Her
Dr. Young Pain Clinic
Howard Hospital Bridge Program
Redwood Medical Clinic
Little Lake Health Center
Long Valley Clinic
Anderson Valley Health Clinic
Mendocino Coast Clinic
Dr. James Dotson
Dr. Cary Wheeler (& Anderson Valley Clinic)