News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 5, 2022
Local organization fighting opiates by reducing harm

After Wendy Allen’s poignant personal presentation at the Opera House on Saturday, April 30, Charlie Osborn of the Opiate-Free Island Partnership was in the lobby armed with a different story—one of statistics.

According to literature provided by OFIP, Narcan saved nearly 9,000 Mainers from death by opioid overdose in 2021.

Six-hundred thirty-two Mainers did die from overdoses, but many more were saved in emergency rooms and at the scene by the drug, also known as naloxone.

Importantly, according to Osborn, nearly 20 percent of those saved were saved because a civilian, not a medical professional, administered the drug when it was needed.

That is the business that OFIP is in, he said, saving lives and reducing harm to those suffering from substance abuse disorder. The organization addresses the issue in three ways.

First, it conducts clean needle exchanges to reduce the threat of disease among users.

Second, OFIP trains people to administer Narcan and provides doses on the street.

Finally, the group provides fentanyl test strips, so users can know if the drug they have acquired has fentanyl in it. Fentanyl is especially dangerous, Osborn said.

“Fentanyl is the killer,” he said. Seventy five percent of overdoses involve at least some fentanyl, he said.

Fentanyl is an especially potent opioid, 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Because it is so potent, it is used by dealers to drive up demand among users. It is also very lucrative, being easier to transport and hide, Osborn said.

Osborn, who is retired from the business side of a Wall Street law firm, said that OFIP was born of a need to address the local drug crisis on the Island “without reinventing the wheel.”

There are many good programs, but we needed to get them to the Deer Isle-Stonington area. “We are an under-served community,” he said.

He reports that the group exchanges 2,000 needles per year and has trained 150 people to administer nasal Narcan. He was signing more people up for the training Saturday night.

The group also provides crisis support, though not addiction or mental health counseling. OFIP can put people in touch with the programs and resources they need, he said.

For those finding themselves in need of support, you can reach OFIP Director Ashley Pesek at 479-6255 or Community Liaison Saige Brages at 460-5771.

For those wanting to give to the organization, donations may be sent to Opiate-Free Island Partnership, P.O. Box 295, Deer Isle, ME 04627.

OFIP wants to “keep people alive until they’re ready for treatment.”