Social work students get emergency opioid overdose training
The first social work students from Radford University were trained July 11 in how to save the life of someone who has overdosed on opioids.
Kerry Vandergrift, associate professor of social work, arranged the two-hour training session by Charlie Tarasidis, staff pharmacist at the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, for graduate and undergraduate social work students who could encounter an overdose situation during their field work.
“This is something our students will deal with.” said Vandergrift. “These are the first social work students to receive this training and it is the start of another strong community partnership. I hope we can have all social work students certified with this life-saving training by graduation in 2019.”
Tarasidis reviewed the signs of an opioid overdose and gave the students hands-on training about properly responding to the emergency with naloxone rescue. He also addressed myths surrounding overdose response and shared the signs for which the lay responders should look – blue lips, ashen skin color and shallow, labored breathing.
Tarasidis discussed the types of opioids and the range of illicitly made and highly potent synthetic opioids and their street names with the aspiring social workers, who are just now stepping into the fieldwork component of their education.
“You can rescue an individual,” said Tarasidis, who highlighted the need for such preparation with current data that indicates that an opioid overdose occurs every ten minutes in the United States.
The students were trained in administering Naloxone, a prescription medication, that is a specific opioid antagonist drug that reverses the effects that opioids have in the brain. Long used by emergency personnel, the drug is available to lay responders through the REVIVE program that delivers it through sessions with Master Trainers like Tarasidis.
REVIVE! is a collaborative effort led by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) working alongside the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Health Professions, recovery community organizations such as the McShin Foundation, OneCare of Southwest Virginia, the Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance of Virginia and other organizations.
Amber Biedler, a senior social work student from Roanoke, acknowledged the value of the lay training, saying, “I certainly knew of the huge epidemic out there and now I feel empowered to save a life.”