Aimee Dunkle and Margie Fleitman never aspired to be crusaders against heroin and opioid‐related deaths in America. It was only after they each lost a son to accidental overdoses that they were thrust into the fight against addiction.
“It was just something I felt I had to do,” said Dunkle, who after losing her son to an overdose several years ago started The Solace Foundation of Orange County with Fleitman. The foundation’s mission is to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths by expanding access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone. — an overdose-reversing drug. “I feel like Ben’s (her son) spirit lives through this program.”
In Fleitman’s and Dunkle’s cases, each of their sons could have been saved. In the former’s, her son was left in a parking lot by friends instead of being taken to a hospital or calling 911 where the naloxone could have been administered.
And now, Fleitman and Dunkle are ramping up their efforts to make sure naloxone is readily available in as many places as possible, especially places opiate addicts are known to frequent, like substance-abuse treatment facilities such as Solid Landings.
“Our goal is to have naloxone readily available in all our locations by the end of April,” said Ernalyn Montgomery, Solid Landings’ director of client care services, who spearheaded the naloxone training sessions, led by Dunkle and her foundation. “We hope to never have to use it, but having them only adds to our clients’ overall safety and well-being. This drug is proven to prevent deaths at a staggering rate of success. If ever that day comes, when a client acquiesces to the temptations of his or her disease and overdoses, we want to be prepared.”
Approximately 120 Solid Landings staff members attended the trainings, in which Dunkle delivered a brief, but compelling, presentation about naloxone and its undeniable role in lowering
overdose deaths in America.
According to Dunkle, naloxone has been used in reversing 44 overdoses in Orange County alone since June of last summer.
But what makes naloxone such a gamechanger is the simplicity with which someone can administer the necessary doses
to a person in peril. Dunkle said most naloxone programs employ the nasal spray dosages or the more expensive voice‐ assisted injection dosages. It is unclear which type of administration method Solid Landings will use when it green‐lights the program.
“We are really excited about this program,” Montgomery said. “It's part of Solid Landings' goal to provide the highest quality of care to our clients and keep them safe. It's another measure that our facility has taken to go above and beyond for our clients, such as having Jack, our drug dog."
Naloxone, often sold under the brand name Narcan, was patented in 1961 by
JackFishman, Mozes J. Lewenstein, and the company Sankyo. It was approved for opioid overdose by the Food and Drug
Administration in 1971 and is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines — the most important medications
needed in a basic health system.