Saving lives: Quabbin High student spreads awareness of drug overdose and addiction

·3 min read

HUBBARDSTON ― For Quabbin Regional senior Matthew Cornell, the fentanyl crisis across Massachusetts became a call to action.

Quabbin Regional High School requires all seniors to do a capstone community service project in order to graduate. During one of his capstone classes, Cornell was talking with his friends about how rapidly fentanyl overdoses have increased in the last year across the country.

That crisis became Cornell's opportunity to serve his community. After talking with his peers and teacher on how horrifying the fentanyl crisis is, he realized he wanted to do a project to spread awareness in Barre and Hubbardston.

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"I like helping people and I thought I might as well actually help people with this project," he said. "This is a scary tragedy, so if somebody else is able to save someone's life with that Narcan, that gives them a second chance to maybe get help and get better."

Matthew Cornell said he learned from local police stations where the most drug overdoses occur in Hubbardston so he could distribute the Narcan boxes to people in those areas.
Matthew Cornell said he learned from local police stations where the most drug overdoses occur in Hubbardston so he could distribute the Narcan boxes to people in those areas.

The need for Narcan

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 279 Worcester County residents died due to a fentanyl overdose in 2021. In 2010, 79 Worcester County residents died of a fentanyl overdose, and in the past decade the numbers have consistently increased.

In 2021, only one person died of a drug overdose in Barre and Hubbardston, an 80% decrease since five people died in 2010. That decrease is due to the fact that Narcan was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in November 2015 to fight against the opioid and fentanyl crisis.

In the past year, Hubbardston police officials are permitted to carry Narcan on duty. Within the past 30 days Hubbardston officers administrated Narcan at three different cases of drug overdose which saved the victims life.

Building awareness of fentanyl's danger

Cornell said he did approximately 60 hours of research, collected Narcan donations, and distributed the Narcan with informative pamphlets and instructions. Cornell first spoke with Nekr Jenkins, the school's director of drug-free communities, who helped him research statistics through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) public database. Then he asked his stepfather, Middlesex County Sheriff Superintendent Osvaldo Vidal, for his help in getting in contact with the Worcester County Sheriff's Office and if they were willing to donate any amount of Narcan for his project.

Cornell collected around 35 boxes of Narcan nasal spray from both the Middlesex and Worcester County sheriff's departments. Each Narcan box comes with two separate 4-milligram (mg) dose nasal spray devices. A box of Narcan nasal spray can cost up to $185 without insurance and with insurance it can range from $30 to $100, depending on the provider.

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So far, he has distributed 15 Narcan boxes to community members who were interested in learning more about addiction and the fentanyl crisis. Along with the Narcan box, he also disturbed pamphlets on how to use Narcan, where to get drug addiction treatment, and information on the fentanyl crisis.

Cornell has completed his capstone project and is still distributing Narcan boxes to anyone who is interested.

This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Narcan distribution in Hubbardston, Barre to combat opioids, fentanyl