Man’s mission: Addiction help cards

Butch Comegys / Times-Tribune Photographer Michael Arcangeletti displays the information card that he produced listing resources for people using prescription opioid drugs.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories by Pennsylvania print, digital and broadcast news organizations on the opioid crisis in the state.

OLD FORGE — When the state health secretary visited northeast Pennsylvania during a recent health provider summit, Michael Arcangeletti slipped her a card.

The bright blue card is his simple solution to help solve a complex, lingering problem — opioid addiction.

The 35-year-old Old Forge graduate student noticed pharmacies did not give clients any information about how to get help for opioid addiction.

So, he printed 1,000 cards for pharmacists and emergency workers to include with every opioid prescription, drugstore syringe package and naloxone dose to help patients find immediate and long-term help. The postcard-size inserts contain phone numbers, addresses and websites for medical providers and organizations that offer addiction help.

At first, a few independent pharmacists in Lackawanna County distributed the cards. Now, a few months later, many more participate.

“I just look at this as another means to throw a resource at this problem,” said Arcangeletti, a recovering addict who has been clean for almost a decade and is studying social work at Marywood University.

His new goal is to get pharmacies in neighboring counties and national pharmacy chains to adopt his model.

Giving the health secretary, Rachel Levine, a card was an important step in that direction because she helps lead Pennsylvania’s new Opioid Operational Command Center. Levine passed the card to Ray Barishansky, a deputy secretary with the Opioid Operational Command Center.

“At least it got to the Command Center what we did here in Lackawanna County,” Arcangeletti said.

His initiative comes as the opioid addiction epidemic worsens. The pharmacy often is an addicted person’s first contact with prescription painkillers.

Lackawanna County had Pennsylvania’s second-highest opioid prescription rate per capita in 2015 — 112 prescriptions per 100 residents, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It doesn’t have to be an abuse situation,” said Olyphant pharmacist Eric Pusey of Medicap Pharmacy, who distributes Arcangeletti’s informational cards.

“It could be a normal situation where a patient forgets or may take two or innocently do something that puts them in an overdose situation,” he added.

Pennsylvania Ambulance uses Arcangeletti’s cards because their emergency naloxone kits do not have additional information to help overdose victims after they are revived, operations manager Bruce Beauvais said.

Marty Henehan, a Scranton activist fighting the addiction epidemic and co-founder of the Forever Sammi Foundation, put his number and website on the card.

Henehan, a recovering addict whose daughter, Samantha, fatally overdosed in 2016, works in the local recovery community and helped Arcangeletti bring more pharmacies on board.

Addicted people often reach a moment of clarity when they are alone and about to use drugs, Henehan said.

“There were many times in my addiction I would be reaching for that pill bottle, and, as I was turning the pill bottle, about to dump it in my hand, I was literally thinking to myself, ‘this is no way to live,'” he said. “The hope is that, as they reach for that pill bottle, they see that leaflet and say, ‘Maybe these guys have an answer for me.'”

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