(Camden, NJ) – On Friday, the Board of Commissioners joined the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force and staff from University of Pennsylvania’s Schools of Nursing and the Annenberg School of Communications to unveil a virtual reality Naloxone training video created for Camden County.
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office enlisted the University of Pennsylvania to create a locally tailored training video on Narcan administration, using virtual reality to create an immersive viewing experience. The nine-minute video was supported by funding from the 2022 Overdose Data to Action Operation Helping Hand grant, administered by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
“Narcan is a critical tool in our battle against the opioid and overdose epidemic,” said Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. “It is imperative that as many people as possible are trained in how to administer this lifesaving medication and this instructional video will help us do that. I want to thank all the entities that partnered together on this venture, and I am extremely proud that Camden County is continuing to lead the way when it comes to defeating the opioid epidemic.”
The training video which was filmed in Camden County, will be used for a fast and easy alternative to support the Naloxone training in schools for students, staff and administrators, bus drivers and other entities that carry the lifesaving pharmaceutical.
“We have been battling this public health emergency for more than 10 years,” said Camden County Health Officer Dr. Paschal Nwako. “But Narcan has made an incredible impact by reversing the effects of an overdose. By training and equipping people to use this life saving medication, we can really make a difference in the opioid and fatal overdose epidemic.”
From January to October 2023, there were 10,200 administrations of Narcan across the state of New Jersey and 1,312 in Camden County.
“The Narcan VR Training Video is a tremendous opportunity for Camden County to reach and train thousands of people on safely administering Narcan,” said Camden County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay. “This nine-minute video succinctly breaks down the barrier of fear by reassuring people on the warning signs of overdose, how easy Narcan is to use, and if it’s discovered that it was not an overdose situation and Narcan was not needed – there is No harm to the individual.”
In 2019 and early 2020, Natalie Herbert, a doctoral candidate at Annenberg at the time, led a team that tested VR training against in-person instruction at naloxone giveaways and training clinics the Philadelphia Department of Health held at local libraries. The researchers found the VR training was just as effective in educating people, publishing their findings in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2020.
“Rarely do we get to see such an immediate lifesaving benefit to our research,” said Sarah Banet-Weiser, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication. “We are all so thrilled and proud that this innovative use of virtual reality can be used to efficiently and effectively train anyone to revive people who are overdosing.”
The Camden County Commissioners continue to implement a variety of harm reduction policies by installing Naloxone boxes throughout the county park system and every public school from Camden City to Winslow Township. Additionally, the Commissioners also provide free Narcan training sessions, fentanyl test strips, NaloxBoxes for social service organizations and mental health support for those who have lost a loved one to substance use disorder.
“What we think about here at Penn is not just what we can do in isolation but the impact we can have on our communities,” said Antonia M. Villarruel, dean of the School of Nursing.
Anyone seeking addiction assistance should call 1-844-ReachNJ (732-2465), which provides free professional support for those facing addiction and their loved ones. If you are a Camden County resident suffering from substance abuse disorder, please call the Office of Mental Health and Addiction at (856) 374-6361.