Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A historic Bolton Hill church is bringing in the city’s top public health official this Sunday for a post-sermon chat and tutorial for administering the life-saving drug naloxone.

After the 11 a.m. sermon at the historic Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen will be walking congregants through how to administer the overdose-reversing medication. Wen will then take questions from the audience in a Q&A facilitated by Brown Memorial’s pastor, Rev. Andrew Foster Connors.

Wen’s talk and the Q&A will run from 12:15-1:15 p.m.

Speaking with Baltimore Fishbowl, Connors said his church has been inspired by “the scale of the crisis, of the drug epidemic” to conduct more outreach about opioids.

“It’s touched people in our congregation and across all kinds of communities…people whose children are struggling with addiction, people who’ve lost loved ones to drug overdoses,” he said.

The church will also be handing out drug deactivation pouches, which neutralize the chemical effects of any pills sealed within. The pouches have become a popular tool for reducing abuse of any drugs tossed in the garbage, and for preventing meds from leaching into soil or water, which has dire environmental consequences.

Wen’s visit and the deactivation pouch giveaway are part of an ongoing effort by Brown Memorial to educate its members about the opioid crisis. The church has also invited speakers from the Open Society Institute, Johns Hopkins University and the Mental Health Association of Maryland in recent months to come talk about the epidemic.

Wen has championed naloxone as a critical tool for keeping Baltimore’s drug users alive while guiding them to recovery. Last year she issued a standing order requiring all city pharmacies to sell naloxone (brand name Narcan) over the counter, regardless of whether the purchasers have received training.

Connors praised Dr. Wen’s leadership in tackling the crisis. “She as health director has saved thousands of lives with educating communities and getting Narcan in citizens’ hands.”

Exactly 1,501 Marylanders died of opioid-related overdoses in the first nine months of 2017, according to the newest available state figures. Baltimore accounted for more than a third of those deaths. A growing share of overdose deaths have been tied to fentanyl, a sibling drug to heroin that’s far more potent and is oftentimes mixed in to what users buy on the street.

According to a February Goucher Poll, half of Marylanders say they know someone addicted to opioids.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...