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Overdose Deaths in United States Decreasing

Channing Neary, a defense attorney in Austin, said she lost three clients recently from drug overdoses.

As one of the most prominent attorneys who specializes in cases dealing with substance use in Texas, Channing said that the people she helps who do not make it leave a huge imprint on her heart.

“My hope is to reach some people and help them change their life,” Channing said. “When I run into a client who is still sober and has been since we have worked together, it keeps me going.”

Channing has been working with clients who have substance use disorders for a decade. More than 80 percent of her clients have cases that are related to substance use.

“And a lot of those people are misusing substances on a regular basis,” she said.

Because of Channing’s work, she has witnessed the overdose epidemic that’s rattled Texas and the United States.

Even though opioid overdose deaths are modestly declining, the CDC reported the synthetic opioid deaths are increasing year over year. Synthetic drugs — like Fentanyl — are getting more powerful and dangerous.

Prescription opioids saw the largest change with a 13.5% decrease. However, synthetic opioid deaths, such as Fentanyl, increased.

What is Fentanyl?

A synthetic-opioid — like Fentanyl — is man made. According to the CDC, it’s 50 times more potent than heroin.

Fentanyl can be illegally made and mixed into other drugs or it can be prescribed in patches, tablets, or lozenges.

Channing is so passionate about stopping avoidable deaths by overdose, she is on the board of the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance.

The alliance targets the homeless population in Austin to help in safe syringe exchange to lower the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

“It’s a public health issue,” said Joy Rucker, Executive Director of Texas Harm Reduction Alliance. “We are also working to reduce overdose deaths.”

Many overdoses are the result of drugs being laced or cut with fentanyl. It’s a deadly opioid that is fast reacting and killing people.

The organization has only been in existence for a year and is funded by UT San Antonio to fight overdose deaths.

The organization goes to homeless encampments and passes out Narcan.

What is Narcan?

Narcan is a prescription that can completely or partially reverse an opioid overdose.

Narcan is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of opioids.

When an overdose happens, a body’s respiratory drive slows, meaning the natural instinct to breath is decreased. Narcan pulls the opiate off of the brain receptors and binds to it and blocks it. And it works fast.

“When you give someone Narcan you reverse the overdose so they don’t die,” Joy said. “Just from our own data that we collected in the year that we have been operating we have had 130 reversals.”

Joy also said since they have been in operation they have helped 20 people get on medicated assisted treatment and helped three of them get in housing.

“We look at syringe exchange, one of the evidence based models that reduces HIV and hepatitis C,” Joy said. “But it also gives us greater access to people who usually don’t seek help.”

Homeless encampments do not have many options for medical supplies or medical help with abscesses. Some just need food or a toothbrush.

Joy worked at a similar program in Oakland for more than 20 years. She said when someone provides a service to a group of people no one else wants to help, they are grateful and kind.

She said it also helps that she has empathy.

“We come from that world one way or another.”

Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness