White Powder Warning – 

Nov. 20, 2020 – Since Nov. 12, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed three overdose deaths among workers in the restaurant and bar industry. The city’s Department of Public Health could not confirm the number of nonfatal overdoses.

Herens, who has worked at Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant in Center City for nearly a decade, also held the post of harm reduction “czar” for the city health department, where she helped those who use drugs do so safely. If anyone was uniquely positioned to handle this particular tragedy, it was Herens.

She teamed up with a former Health Department colleague, epidemiologist Jennifer Shinefeld. Together, they stuffed a bag full of naloxone nasal spray and fentanyl test strips and traveled from bar to bar in Old City, spreading the word about safe drug use. Nearly all of Philadelphia’s heroin supply contains some amount of fentanyl, which can be 100 times as potent. Because of this, naloxone, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, has gained traction among people who use opioids regularly as an important tool to keep on hand. The medication works by knocking opioids off the receptors in the brain, restoring air flow and reversing the effects of an overdose. It is available over the counter without a prescription in Pennsylvania. Anyone who wants to learn more about where to get naloxone can do so at the Philadelphia Public Health Department website.

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