In 2020, pressures from the pandemic combined with the ongoing opioid epidemic to produce the most single-year overdose deaths in American history. 

“It’s no surprise to me that we had record overdoses during a pandemic,” said Dawn Smith, executive director for Substance Abuse Council in Calhoun County.  “People were isolated, people were not accessing services.”

In an effort to prevent overdose deaths in Calhoun County, Substance Abuse Council, located in Marshall, has partnered with two other Calhoun County agencies to distribute Narcan kits, which can be used to save individuals overdosing on opioids. Substance Abuse Prevention Services in Albion Summit and Point First Step in Battle Creek also distribute the kits. 

To receive a kit, people must complete a short training session that can be done in-person or online. The online training is available at Substance Abuse Council’s website, 

After watching a short training video, program participants must answer a few quiz questions on how to use Narcan, and enter some basic information about themselves. Once responses have been submitted, participants will receive an email confirming they have completed training. Participants can then collect their kits by showing that email to any of the three pickup locations. In-person training is also available, and it usually only takes 15 or 20 minutes to complete, Smith said. 

When people collect the kits, they are also given information about recovery programs available.

“The goal is to give them Narcan, give them resources, in the hope that they come back for treatment if they don’t access it immediately,” Smith said. 

Demand for the Narcan kits has been robust. From the time the program started in mid-March to the end of July, the most recent count, around 300 people have obtained Narcan kits from the program. Smith said people struggling with substance abuse and their loved ones often pick up kits, as do business owners who want to be prepared if someone overdoses in their business’ bathroom. 

“We’re just trying to make it as easy as possible to get access to this important antidote,” Smith said. 

Mental health and addiction are tied closely together. Because of the enormous challenges to mental health posed by homelessness, showing support for the recovery community is showing support for the homeless community.