Philadelphia has been noted in recent years for the grim distinction of having one of the highest rates of fatal opioid overdose of any American city. In an effort to stem the tide, state and local authorities distributed free anti-overdose drugs in Philly on Thursday.
“We cannot get someone into treatment if they are dead,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement announcing the week of public health-focused events. “Naloxone saves lives and we should all carry it, because you never know when you will get the chance to help someone.”
As of 3 p.m. on Thursday, 3,000 doses of Narcan had already been distributed, and dozens of locations around the state had completely run out of stock.
“We were hopeful that we would have this response to the naloxone distribution,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We are excited that Pennsylvanians are stepping up to help save lives. … We are going to look to do this type of event again to make naloxone available.”
Levine previously signed a standing order in April authorizing a “prescription” for Naloxone for anyone who needs to obtain the medicine to help a loved one struggling with addiction from any pharmacy, which will remain active indefinitely.
The Dec. 13 event was part of the state of Pennsylvania’s “Stop Overdoses in PA week.” Free doses of Naloxone, a generic form of Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug, were distributed around the state and in Philly at Free Library branches.
Philadelphia Department of Public Health trainers participated in training sessions at some library branches for the public showing them how to administer Naloxone — which is a spray-medication administered nasally. Some patients require more than one dose and first responders sometimes need multiple nasal sprays to revive overdose patients.
In 2018 alone, paramedics and police have reportedly revived 9,000 Pennsylvanians from overdoses using naloxone sprays. Since 2014, that number went up to more than 20,000 people. And since 2016, some 3,000 people with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) have been transferred into drug treatment.
In Pennsylvania, emergency room personnel are now advised by the state to co-prescribe Naloxone to patients who are treated with opioids.
The state has also lined up Medicaid funding to get more than 12,000 people to treatment facilities and in some cases provide career services returning people recovering from drug addiction to work.
Anyone seeking treatment for addiction, including insured, uninsured or underinsured people, can call the Pennsylvania Get Help Now Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to enter treatment or learn about treatment options.
For more information, visit pa.gov/opioids.