Trumbull nurse optimistic overdose death numbers will stay lower


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

Kathy Parrilla says she’s “cautiously optimistic” that the lower overdose death numbers so far this year in Trumbull County are a true indicator that the worst of the opiate crisis is in the past.

Parrilla is a public heath nurse with the Trumbull County Combined Health District who is running a $220,000 grant-funded program educating children and medical professionals in ways to reverse the crisis.

She also runs a program for the health department that provides naloxone kits to law enforcement and the public.

Naloxone, which reverses opiate overdoses, has been credited with saving many lives since the crisis began.

“You don’t want to take that deep breath yet ... because we know in the next hour that could change,” Parrilla said of the lower overdose death numbers. “It’s a little too early to say things are better.”

Summer tends to be a more volatile time, she noted.

“We’ll see what happens in June, July and August, those summer months, when people are out and about. So far we are definitely better than we’ve been,” Parrilla said.

The most recent report from Kathy Meszaros, chief investigator for Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Thomas James, indicate that the number of overdose deaths in the first four months of 2018 are fewer than half the number in 2017.

There were 38 overdose deaths from January through April of 2017 but 18 this year.

Meszaros provided confirmed overdose death numbers of 12 for January through April and indicated that because of toxicology reports and circumstances, she can say with some certainty that there were six more in March and April.

Trumbull is one of the only area counties that provides updated overdose-death numbers throughout the year. The county had a record 135 overdose deaths in 2017.

Parrilla, meanwhile, reported that she is extremely pleased with the results of the trainings she did with students in the four pre-kindergarten through grade 8 public schools in Warren and in Southington schools last school year and looks forward to resuming the trainings in the fall.

“It went really, really well,” she said of the curriculum called Generation Rx. “The kids were so receptive and they were so interactive. Especially with the younger kids, you turn it more into a game. At the end of each session, they were able to repeat it back to me what those main points were.”

Among the main points among the younger children were that the children should not share medications, not taking anything not given them by a trusted adult, safe disposal of medications, “not picking up anything laying around if you don’t know if it’s medicine or candy.”

She did programs with 224 students from kindergarten to grade 8 in the Warren schools and 240 in grades kindergarten to grade 5 in Southington schools.

She said she learned that many of the children already know a lot about the drug-abuse issues in the community, especially in grades 5 to 7. One had said someone in their family was battling a drug addiction.

“It’s kind of sad that kids that age are that aware, but at the same time that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s kind of a double-edged sword.”

She said she found the children to “have a good head on their shoulders, a nd I think they are going to do good things. I think learning what they’re learning is going to set them on the right track.”

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