By Lina Jeffery
According to the Bureau of Justice, between 2007 and 2009, about two-thirds of incarcerated persons in the US had substance use disorders (SUD), and this trend is increasing yearly. Returning citizens released in the last two weeks are up to 129 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the general population. The Lookout Project seeks to equip incarcerated individuals with knowledge about harm reduction and overdose prevention techniques. To do so, we eventually would like to implement an Overdose Education and Narcan Distribution (OEND) program in a Washtenaw County correctional facility. Our goal is to implement our program successfully at a local prison before expanding within the state of Michigan. The OEND will consist, first, of an educational program with a pre- and post-test, as well as training on recognizing an overdose and administering Narcan, an opioid overdose-reversing drug. This will be completed during incarceration. Upon release, we will provide participants of the program with free Narcan and information regarding other resources available to them through outside organizations. We will stay in touch with participants and survey them to identify their needs and what actions we can take to best serve them during their reintegration. This project and its goals will be constantly adapting and changing in order to continually support participants in the ways that are most beneficial to them. Ultimately, however, The Lookout Project aims to lower the statistics of former inmate overdose deaths by raising overdose awareness and making Narcan more accessible.
In the short term, we hope to take smaller steps to gradually work toward these larger aspirations. Our plans for this semester in ALA 175 included some of these goals, and we were looking forward to in-person contact with stakeholders and each other, but, unfortunately, because of the unexpected turn that this semester took and the social distancing constraints, we were forced to find ways to continue progressing online. We adjusted our goals and hoped to accomplish the following: create a digitalized logo (featured in the picture!), set up a G-Suite for The Lookout Project team members, purchase a website domain, Screencastify subscription, and video props for The Lookout Project, begin filming educational videos, and begin developing the website. However, as the COVID-19 crisis developed to be more serious than anyone was expecting, our goals were in need of adjustment again. For example, the educational videos have been planned extensively, but due to delivery delays, actually filming these videos was not feasible. One way of dealing with the limitations posed by the COVID-19 crisis was focusing on research as a product. We all collaborated through Google Sheets on a literature review. We read previous research on opioid overdose prevention and extensively analyzed the strategies used.
This ended up being invaluable and will heavily guide our steps in the immediate as well as the distant future.