PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An unhoused couple on Sunday saved two people from overdosing on fentanyl.
The live-saving measures happened a few blocks from JOLT Harm Reduction on Sheridan Road. The organization provides Narcan and drug testing strips for overdose prevention and harm reduction.
Chris Schaffner, program director at JOLT Harm Reduction, said there is a lot of stigma against homelessness and homeless people.
“We make assumptions about how people present to us in real-time without understanding the complexity of their life, and they’re so much more than what you see in front of them,” he said.
Schaffner said homeless people, like the couple from Sunday night, are the ones out saving lives.
“The reality is these folks are the real first responders. They’re armed with Narcan, and they’re on-site with people at the point of overdose. They’re literally saving dozens if not hundreds of lives every year,” he said.
Schaffner said there was a 50% decrease in fatal overdoses in 2021 compared to the previous year. He attributed the decrease to harm reduction and overdose preventative measures.
“It is largely happening because of [people] like this couple that are on the front lines. They’re the first responders, so knowing we can impact somebody in such a way that they take on that same responsibility to care for others, and see that pay forward and make a real impact in the lives of folks, is hard to describe or quantify,” he said.
JOLT moved to the new Sheridan Road location a few weeks ago from its original location on Adams Street.
“To open up here and immediately see the impact of our services on this specific neighborhood, continues to prove we are moving in the right direction,” he said.
JOLT is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They recently opened a satellite location in Pekin, open on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.