Board of Health Hears of the Coming Installation of Naloxone Boxes

The Revere Board of Health held its regular monthly meeting this past Thursday (March 28) in the City Council Chambers at Revere City Hall. On hand for the meeting were chair Dr. Drew Bunker and a new member of the board, Kathy Savage. Also in attendance were Lauren Buck, the Director of Public Health, and Paula Sepulveda, the Board of Health Clerk.

Special guests were CarrieAnn Salemme, the city’s Substance Use Disorder and Homeless Initiative (SUDHI) Program Manager; Nicole Palermo, a Mental Health Clinician/Social Worker; and Cheryl Sbarra, the Executive Director and Senior Staff Attorney for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards (MAHB).

Buck presented the city’s Communicable Disease monthly report. “Our flu number was quite high,” said Buck. “We had 168 cases with the ages ranging from two months to 97 years old,” said Buck, who noted that there were only 50 confirmed COVID cases in residents ranging in age from one month to 96 years old.

Buck also noted that there was one case of brucellosis in the city, a rare bacterial disease which is contracted by consuming  unpasteurized dairy products. “This is not typically seen in Revere, but it is worth mentioning so that residents are aware of the risk of consuming these products,” Buck said.

Buck added that measles cases have been on the rise across the country. “Students should be current with their MMR vaccines,” said Buck, who also urged unvaccinated travelers to foreign countries, where measles cases also are on the rise, to obtain vaccinations before departing the U.S.

Buck also made mention of a new state initiative to implement “a health equity plan to address racism as a serious public health threat.”

Finally, Buck pointed out that norovirus cases have been on the rise nationwide, particularly in the northeastern U.S. She said that the illness is transmitted by means of contaminated food and that proper hand washing by those who prepare food is essential to preventing its spread.

Sbarra made a presentation regarding the high degree of legal authority that local boards of health have in Massachusetts. She walked the members through the Massachusetts statute (M.G.L. c. 111, s. 31) and Supreme Judicial Court case law that empower local boards of health to invoke the municipality’s broad police power to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its residents, even at the expense of individual freedom and business interests.

Most recently, the SJC upheld a recent by-law enacted by the Town of Brookline that forbids the sale of tobacco products to any person born after January 1, 2000. Sbarra also made note of an SJC decision upholding the Town of Yarmouth’s ban on the sale of a flavored tobacco product, even though the product did not explicitly advertise itself as containing flavored tobacco.

She also cited an SJC decision that upheld the Town of Athol’s Board of Health regulation that forbids smoking in private clubs. Sbarra then showed a number of slides regarding some of the many areas of public health that fall within a board of health’s jurisdiction and the means, including fines and actions in district court, by which boards can enforce their regulations.

The Opioid Abatement Working Group then made a presentation to the board. Buck first spoke on the subject of the funding for the programs for the city’s efforts to combat opioid addiction, which is a serious problem in the city. Buck displayed a graph that showed the increase in opioid overdose deaths in Revere in recent years: 21 in 2020, 25 in 2021, 30 in 2022, and an estimated 123 total overdoses, of which 17 were fatal, in 2023. She said the source of funding for local programs for treatment, support, and prevention comes from the national settlement with the pharmaceutical and retail companies who produced and sold opioid drugs.

“Our goal is to spend this money effectively and to make sure that we have a long-term spending plan, not year-after-year in short-term ways,” said Buck. “We also want to focus on innovative plans.”

Palermo spoke about the composition from across the community of the Opioid Abatement Working Group and the work the group is doing on this complex issue.

Salemme informed the board of the soon-to-appear outdoor and indoor Nalox-boxes, which are used to store Naloxone (also referred to as Narcan), that will be installed at various locations throughout the city. Naloxone, which now is an over-the-counter drug, is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid drug overdose. She also noted that it is a very safe medication, similar to a nasal spray such as Flonase. Salemme pointed out that neighboring communities have installed these boxes with little or no vandalism.

Buck said the boxes will be placed at locations where the data has shown where the most overdoses occur in the city. Salemme said the boxes will be installed in May in conjunction with the city’s DPW. She also said that instructions for how to administer Narcan to an overdose victim will be on the storage boxes themselves.

In its final business of the evening, the board approved the issuance of three licenses pursuant to the city’s Urban Farming Regulations: Chicken Keeping to Iphigenie Victorin; Bee Keeping to Damian DeMarco; and Bee Keeping to Aldo G. De Oliveira. Buck noted that all three applicants had passed the required inspections from the Health Dept.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.