Her job began as an emergency room doctor. Now she’s out on the front lines, working to prevent drug overdoses, one case at a time. That’s because she believes that there is more that must be done in the fight against addiction.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of overdoses in these homeless camps around Wilmington,” said Dr. Sandra Gibney, who works at St. Francis Hospital, “and sadly, because of the location, by the time we get to them, it’s not an opportunity to revive them.”
Everything changed for her when a 42-year-old man died of a suspected heroin overdose, his body found under a simple blue tarp at the homeless camp. He was pronounced dead at the scene, with the paramedics informing Dr. Gibney about the incident after their response.
One dose of naloxone could have saved his life. Now Dr. Gibney wants to make sure that if something similar happens again, then a different outcome can become possible.
One Key Partnership Is Changing the Threat of an Overdose
Dr. Gibney partners with the Division of Public Health and Brandywine Counseling to visit the numerous homeless campsites that are around Wilmington. They are providing naloxone to people who they see are actively using heroin, or those around them who may be struggling with addiction issues.
“I want to believe that if we had these out here a month ago,” Dr. Gibney said in July 2018, “that two people wouldn’t have been dead.”
Naloxone has been approved for sale in pharmacies across the United States, including Delaware, with some states allowing for a standing order which allows anyone to purchase the product. It is a costly item, however, with the minimum price about $40. Some may need to spend $72 per dose.
Placing a dollar figure on a life is impossible. Dr. Gibney finds it an unreasonable situation to ask families to make a choice between their budget and the issues with addiction. These are vulnerable populations who struggle, even when they might want to make changes.
Over 140 Overdose Deaths Occurred in Delaware in Just 6 Months
Any death is one that is too many when dealing with an overdose in the eyes of Dr. Gibney. She realizes that saving everyone may not be a possibility, but that doesn’t excuse her from trying to do something.
“If it’s one [person] in the state, then boom,” she said. “I’ve moved the needle.”
With Fentanyl hitting the streets in Wilmington and elsewhere around the country, a painkiller that is 50 times more potent than heroin is trying to take lives. Naloxone can make a positive impact. It only takes Dr. Gibney about two hours to distribute the doses she and this partnership puts together for their outreach efforts.
She’s less interested about who takes the medication, wanting people to use it instead. Each box contains information about Brandywine Counseling, giving each recipient information about the resources they can contact if they need something.
“If it saves a life, I’m all about it,” said Dr. Gibney. “There’s no cost I can put on that.”