On October 10th, The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) hosted their Xylazine 102 webinar, marking the final step in the Xylazine Pilot Project. The project was carried out in three stages, with the first phase conducted by Thomas Jefferson University, who led focus groups with people who use drugs and clinicians who support these individuals. Subsequently, the second stage featured PAARI, Brandeis University, and Thomas Jefferson conducting three webinars. These webinars were attended by public safety officers and community members with the aim of informing them about xylazine, its history, and the correct overdose response for the drug. You can watch one of these informative webinars HERE.
In the project’s third stage, PAARI, Brandeis, and Thomas Jefferson conducted workshops with 10 communities in the Northeast. These workshops were dedicated to crafting customized community interventions to xylazine. The Xylazine 102 event was convened to share developed resources intended for tackling the emerging threat of xylazine. It was an opportunity to ensure that PAARI partners are well-informed and equipped with best practices to address the growing presence of this substance in their respective communities. Additionally, it allowed two of the communities that participated in the workshops to share their insights from the process.
The event began with Nurse Jason Bienert, Senior Research Nurse at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, discussing xylazine wound care. He emphasized the significance of early intervention in treating xylazine wounds and effectively managing moisture control after treatment. Nurse Bienert has more than 10 years of experience in critical care nursing, nursing leadership, and critical wound care. Over the past three years, he has treated hundreds of xylazine wounds and founded Voices of Hope, a wound care program in Maryland.
Nurse Bienert acknowledged the progress made in xylazine research since the start of the Xylazine Pilot Project but highlighted that many questions remain unanswered. For instance, the reasons behind xylazine-induced wounds are still unclear. He also stressed the importance of building partnerships and fostering relationships between public health, law enforcement, and harm reduction entities.
Following Nurse Beinert’s remarks, Zoe Grover, Executive Director of PAARI, provided a brief overview of the xylazine workshops conducted in the northeastern communities. Each workshop brought together a mix of public safety officers and community groups working together to create an intervention around xylazine. Workshops included public health departments, police, fire, harm reduction organizations, overdose follow-up groups, faith-based organizations, hospital employees, and more. The workshops yielded several proposed interventions, including:
- Create community awareness about the potential effects of xylazine
- Map local resources for wound care
- Adapt overdose response protocols for fentanyl/xylazine co-exposure
- Collect and send local drug samples to drug-checking programs
- Monitor skin ulcerations and amputation statistics at local emergency departments
- Provide safer drug use materials
- Assemble and distribute wound care kits
After Zoe’s remarks, Officer “Ted” Lane, a Community Impact officer at the Beverly Police Department shared what his department is doing to address xylazine following the workshop. Although Beverly, a community of approximately 45,000 people on the North Shore of Massachusetts, hasn’t experienced an immediate xylazine problem, they’ve identified its presence in the surrounding, more populated areas. Following the xylazine workshop, Beverly PD worked on a social media campaign in partnership with Be Healthy Beverly, a non-profit in the area focused on empowering community members to live healthy lives. Officer Lane also got in touch with the local hospital and shared the xylazine one-pager provided by PAARI. Beverly PD’s final steps were working with the harm reduction group, One Stop, and providing Narcan training throughout the city.
Lizandra Gonzales from the New Bedford Police Department then shared her department’s approach to addressing xylazine. Following the workshop, the department reinforced the Post Overdose Outreach Team with the xylazine information provided by PAARI. They distributed PAARI-provided cards containing details about xylazine and contact information. Additionally, the department continued to distribute wound care kits and encouraged community members to do the same. Since the workshop, Lizandra and her colleague have also organized Narcan training for their police officers and disseminated information about xylazine during these sessions.
Due to the high demand of further xylazine information, PAARI has created a xylazine panel for their 2023 National Law Enforcement Summit in December. Officer Lane and Gonzalez will be joined by Dr. Megan Reed, Natashia Patricio, and Elizabeth Leingang, to give an overview on this new drug, provide possible interventions communities can implement, highlight communities who have taken the step towards combating this crisis, and create an opportunity for constructive conversations moving forward.
To watch the full Xylazine 102 webinar, click the following link HERE.
Written by, Isabella Nowak