Tackling a Public Health Crisis
While serving as a volunteer emergency medical technician, Dave Basile first learned about naloxone, the treatment many first responders now carry to reverse suspected opioid overdoses.
Although Basile has not seen naloxone (also known by its brand name Narcan) administered in the field, he is well aware of its use and the attention it’s getting. That’s because headlines about the opioid epidemic are ubiquitous, as cities and rural areas alike grapple with the issue.
“Anyone can overdose. It’s a problem hitting all ages, genders and demographics,” says Basile, an aspiring doctor. “It hits everywhere.”
The biology major decided to take a closer look at the problem, closer to home.
For his honors thesis, Basile conducted a public health case study of Berks County. He examined the statistics and resources available, and interviewed law enforcement officials, prosecutors, lawmakers, and healthcare and addiction service providers, including Albright alumna Lauri Renick ’13, clinical supervisor at the Gate House, a drug/alcohol treatment program in Lititz, Pa.
Basile found that these groups of people differ on how to approach the opioid issue. Some advocate more treatment centers; others call for more enforcement or education.
And some believe that naloxone’s very existence is an enabler. If opioid users know that first responders carry a potentially life-saving treatment for their overdose, they may be more willing to use, some argue. Critics also point to cases where naloxone is administered to the same patient on multiple occasions.
But Basile believes naloxone is a good tool in the arsenal. “It saves lives and is good to have out there. But there needs to be more prevention and education. It’s not a cure to addiction.”
Opioids are a broad class of drugs that include everything from heroin to prescription painkillers like oxycodone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than six out of 10 drug overdose deaths in America involve an opioid, and 91 people die from an opioid overdose daily.
Basile says policies need to be more integrated. Too often lawmakers, law enforcement, and healthcare providers work in silos. Better communication and collaboration is needed, he says.
After graduation, Basile is headed to medical school at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey. He was admitted in his junior year through the Early Assurance Program, an agreement between Albright and Hershey.