To mark the recently declared Stop Overdoses in PA Week Monday, Dec. 10, through Friday, Dec. 14, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that a free statewide naloxone distribution event will be held Thursday, Dec. 13.
Locally, the opioid overdose reversal drug commonly known as Narcan will be available to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Huntingdon State Health Center, 6311 Margy Drive, Suite 1, and nearly 80 locations across Pennsylvania.
“The life-saving medication naloxone is essential for all of us to have on hand, particularly if you have a loved one suffering from opioid-use disorder,” Wolf said in a press release issued Thursday. “We want to ensure that through this opportunity for free naloxone, we can save more lives and get more Pennsylvanians into treatment. Keeping naloxone in your home, work or even in your car can make the difference between someone getting into treatment or dying from this disease.”
More than 20,000 individuals have been revived with naloxone administered by police officers and EMS providers since November 2014 in Pennsylvania.
“Everyone should consider getting Narcan with the free distribution for multiple reasons,” said Kelly Maffia of Mainstream Counseling. “Narcan functions a lot like learning CPR in the event you are in a situation where you suspect someone is having an overdose. Having Narcan means you could be a citizen responder who can help save a person’s life.”
While a standing prescription has been available for any Pennsylvanian in need of Narcan since last year as issued by state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, the cost of the medication ranges around $150-$200 out of pocket. Those with public or private insurance may be able to fill the prescription for free or low cost.
“Naloxone has one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system and save someone’s life,“ Levine said. “It is impossible to get someone in to treatment who is dead. Every Pennsylvanian has a role to play as a potential first responder and can save a life by having naloxone on hand and using it if they come across someone who has overdosed.”
Even if the overdose is not related to opioids, the administration of Narcan may help and will certainly not hurt.
“A bystander may not know what the substance causing the overdose is, but it’s generally safe to go ahead and administer Narcan. It will help restore respiratory function and buy time for emergency personnel,” Maffia said. “If it’s not an opioid overdose, it will not do any harm.”
Narcan may also be a good idea for those with loved ones who might be at risk of accidentally overdosing on prescription medication.
“There might be individuals out there who think they don’t need it. However, you never know where you might be in a situation where they could use Narcan,” she said. “It’s helpful not only in cases where someone has an active opioid disorder, but there are times when someone may unintentionally take too much medication, particularly older adults. They might take too much medication and end up in a situation where they unintentionally overdose.”
Maffia added that it’s important to remember the dosage of the Narcan distributed to the public is lower than that utilized by emergency responders.
“Sometimes people have fears that someone will wake up and be combative. With the Narcan available to the public, it will bring them around enough to continue breathing, but they are not likely to be combative. They might be confused, but they’re not likely to be combative,” said Maffia. “It’s also important for the public to know that administering Narcan is just the first step. You still need to call 911. Further medical intervention is required.”
Additional information on Stop Overdoses Week and naloxone can be found at www.pa.gov/opioids.