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A familiar face on Dickson Street offers help for opioid overdose

Cody Yancey at his usual spot near the Depot on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
Quinn Cook
Cody Yancey at his usual spot near the Depot on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.

Efforts continue to be made to combat the Arkansas Opioid Crisis. Northwest Arkansas Harm Reduction Center and Yancey’s Dickson Street Dogs are just a few contributing to help the cause.

Chris Jones is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist who works for Eagle Crest Recovery and NWA Harm Reduction.

“So Northwest Arkansas Harm Reduction is just in the name, [it’s] a harm reduction organization. And so we provide Narcan or Naloxone to active users or their family members to keep somebody safe in the event of an overdose and then also sterile use supplies for somebody that may not be ready for recovery yet,” said Jones. “But, we want to prevent overdose and potential barriers to treatment, whether that’s anything that could be contracted through unsafe use.”

Jones has seen Narcan administered, but hasn't had to do it to someone himself. He said there might be a reason for this.

“That's one of the struggles a lot of the people that we distribute to,” said Jones. “If they're using, there's a lot of stigma around using and so they're alone and unable to administer it on themselves.”

A big point that Jones stresses is that having Narcan on hand is never a bad idea. A drug someone thinks they are initially taking might be more potent than what they think.

“Just this weekend, I met with an individual using meth here in Northwest Arkansas, and she's like, ‘oh, I don't need it. I don't use opiates’. At this point, in any street level drug, there's a good chance there's fentanyl in it, which we would need the Narcan for the reversal,” said Jones.

One way to potentially prevent death or an overdose is testing substances beforehand.

“And so one of the things that we hand out is a fentanyl test strip and that's a small little cardboard paper strip used for testing a substance before ingestion to see if there's fentanyl in it,” said Jones. “Because there's a lot of people that are unknowingly using fentanyl thinking that it's something else.”

Jones said it is critical that drug addiction is not stereotyped.

“There isn't a demographic for substance use disorder,” Jones said. “As far as for me, it could be the unsheltered population of South Fayetteville, it could be the college students, or it could be the professional working in a corporate setting somewhere. I think that it is, for the college age, the experimenting with things that we might not have used elsewhere. And so I think that that's where there's an extra level of danger.”

Although not talked about as widely, Jones said college students need to be looked out for.

“Depending on what somebody's using, there's probably a stigma around using in college,” said Jones. “Whether it's going out on Dickon and getting something, or not wanting other people to think differently of you for using and so [they’re] using alone or using without letting other people know what you're doing. Me, I'm very non judgmental about what somebody's doing. And that, I hope, allows them to come to me in the event that they need help without feeling like I'm gonna think differently of them.”

Cody Yancey is the owner of Yancey's Dickson Street Dogs, and his spot by the train depot has manifested into much more than a hot dog stand. He offers a place especially for college students in difficult situations, whether it be drug related or other worries.

“It just organically happened,” said Yancey. “I'm just the kind of person that wanted to help out a little bit and over the nights that I've worked, ya know I would see people that would need some help and I would help them and I wouldn't think anything about it. Like just trying to be a decent person. But, then I start realizing like there's more of these people than I thought. And you know, I'm just helping the ones that I see. So, maybe I should start kind of advertising it to the folks that are here and let them know like, ‘Hey, if you need me, it's okay for you to come find me’. So, that's kind of when I started deeming the area as a safe space and letting people know that I'm willing to help and took the training on the opioid overdose medicine, Narcan.”

As a part of having a safe zone for people on Dickson, Yancy has made it a point to let people know that he administers Narcan for anyone in need of it. His training has taught him to identify an overdose.

"And how to administer the Narcan, and then what to do afterwards,” said Yancey. “It's very simple stuff. And again, like I said, they told me that under state law, there's like a good Samaritan law or something like that that protects people like us. So, I don't have to worry about harming somebody or them getting angry and suing me or something.”

Under these laws, administering Narcan won't legally hurt those trying to issue it. It also cannot hurt someone it's used on.

“They said also if you misidentify the overdose and it's like, ‘okay, I think this person's overdosing on this, so I'm gonna give them Narcan and it turns out they weren't overdosing on that, [instead] they were just drunk and they didn't need Narcan,’ apparently, Narcan won't harm them,” said Yancey.

After 15 years of being on Dickson, Yancey said he has never seen a person overdose. However, that doesn't mean they don't happen.

“Not to say that somebody doesn't walk off the street and it happens a block away, but, you know, I am right on the strip, and I think oftentimes people in those situations try to find maybe a better place to be with the last kind of wit that they have to themselves,” said Yancey. “So, you know, maybe they were slightly off the street or in an Uber or in a bar and they hadn't made it out or I don't know. I've wondered that too.”

Yancey's family serves as a motivation for why he keeps an eye out for those on Dickson Street.

“I've got kids and my daughter's nine,” said Yancey. “Ya know, it's like that's happened in the blink of an eye and I know she's going to be a college student in another blink of an eye and it's like I really, really hope that there's somebody out there looking out for her when that happens. I just want to be that person, you know. I feel like a dad down here. Maybe if I would give myself a title, it’d be like the Dad of Dickson Street.”

In any situation, his stand by the train depot is open to anyone on Dickson Street.

“I’ve tried to provide a safe place for people to be and most of the time, just somewhere safe to sit and wait for an Uber or like, ‘Hey, this guy is kind of creeping me out. I don't know if it's a big deal or not. Maybe I'll just go hang out at Yancey's and kind of wait for him to float away.’ So, a lot of it is just little things that could be big things,” said Yancey.

Yancey and Jones have been able to spread advocacy and offer help to those struggling with opioid use. When speaking on the issue, Jones said, “It is more and more prevalent and I do believe it is a crisis.”

Although opioid use continues to be a problem, testing substances as well as being non-judgmental to those using could help prevent unfortunate outcomes.

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Quinn Cook is an Advertising and PR student at the University of Arkansas. She is originally from St. Louis, MO.
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