Opioid Overdose Prevention

Program Brochure
Learn more about SPHERE in our  Program Brochure here.

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Featured Resource:
"A Public Health Approach to Overdose Prevention" by the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 8/22/12


Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Office of HIV/AIDS: "HIV/AIDS Service and Resource Guide." October 2012

Winter/Spring 2014
Regional Training
for BSAS funded drug/alcohol treatment programs:

Canton (Overdose Prevention/Naloxone Responder)

2/12/14 Tewksbury (Incorporating Harm Reduction Skill into Your Work)

3/3/14 Northampton (Motivational Interviewing)

4/8/14 Worcester (The Logistics Developing Client-Centered HIV Education Groups)

5/6/14 Brockton (Viral Hepatitis ABCs: The Basics)

6/16/14 Canton (Facilitating Group Education on the Topic of "Preventing Unintentional Opioid Overdoses")

Upcoming PAC-Net Meetings

  • May 5, 2014, Northampton
  • May 7, 2014, Canton*
  • May 8, 2014, Brockton
  • May 13, 2014, Canton
  • May 14, 2014, Worcester
  • May 15, 2014, Tewksbury

(PACs need attend only one of these dates)

* Due to logistical problems Boston PACNet will take place at Canton site

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Public Health Crisis
Deaths from unintentional opioid overdose have been increasing nationally and across Massachusetts.  Unintentional overdose is tracked as part of “unintentional poisoning.”  


Massachusetts Impact

  • In Massachusetts, the crude rate for total poisoning deaths (from all agents combined) increased 119% from 1990 to 2005.  The proportion of these which were associated with opioids increased from 28% (in 1990) to almost 68% (in 2005).

According to the April 2008 Massachusetts Death Report, opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. The report documented the following increases in Massachusetts:

  • Deaths caused by overdoses of heroin and other opioids, such as Oxycontin, rose by more than 7% per year from 2000 to 2006.
  • Fully two-thirds of all poisonings reported to DPH during 2006 were the result of opioid overdoses.

In 2006, 637 people died in Massachusetts from opioid poisoning, up from 544 in 2005.


What We're Doing About It
At SPHERE, we see overdose prevention as uniquely compatible with our work on HIV, hepatitis and harm reduction capacity-building in the drug and alcohol treatment community.


Like HIV, Hepatitis, and harm reduction, overdose prevention challenges our assumptions about what drug and alcohol treatment should or should not include. In all these situations, we emphasize the importance of approaching treatment, including the discussion of consequences of use, in ways that include clients and support clients’ decisions to abstain and pursue recovery, risk reduction and support.

Many unintentional opioid overdoses occur after a period of abstinence from drug use – whether a person was in drug treatment, the hospital, a detox program, or jail. This period of abstinence can result in a decreased tolerance which, in turn, can create an overdose risk factor, if use resumes. Because we know that relapse is a part of the recovery process, education during drug and alcohol treatment is an important prevention strategy and one that can be very effective.

To focus our efforts on capacity building programming and training around opioid overdose prevention, Health Imperatives’ SPHERE program launched The Overdose Prevention Training Initiative in winter 2007.

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Click here for SPHERE Program Director Mindy Domb's letter to  Counselor: The Magazine for Addiction Professionals on SPHERE's Top 10 Tips for Developing and Delivering Effective Overdose Prevention Training in Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs!


For more information about Health Imperatives and other services provided by the agency, please visit Prevention & Community Services. For more information on The Statewide Homeless/HIV Integration Project (SH/HIP), click here.