Albany, GA (AP) — Jesse Blanchard started small almost five years ago trying to get enough of the opioid overdose-reversing rescue drug naloxone to prevent her daughter from dying of an overdose.
She begged a colleague at a college in Albany, Georgia, where she was a part-time teacher, to take advantage of prescription benefits and take two doses every six months.
Now, every week she loads up her jeep and heads out with a few other volunteers to deliver antidotes (commonly known under the brand name Narkan) to hundreds of people in a town of 70,000 people. increase.
In parking lots and intersections, she also offers clean needles, fentanyl test strips, and nonjudgmental soundboards. This effort is currently partially funded by state government grants. According to Blanchard, at least nine times in December alone, the rescue she provided her drug was used to clear an overdose.
Ms. Blanchard is a nurse with an organization called 229 Safer Living Access, referring to the Albany area code the group’s activities cover. “They say, ‘Miss Jesse, they had to narcan me the other day and without you I would be dead.'”
Available as a nasal spray and injection, naloxone is a key tool in combating the nationwide overdose crisis that kills more than 100,000 people each year in the United States due to changes in US state and federal government policies. In the hands of police, firefighters, drug users, and their loved ones. However, it is often frustratingly inaccessible at the moment an overdose occurs.
Stephen Murray, an overdose survivor and former paramedic who studies overdoses at Boston Medical Center, is committed to getting access to naloxone and has his personal license plate. Declaring it in NARCAN.
“My vision is to have it at every 24-hour gas station in the state for free or for 25 cents a time,” he said. “It falls between Tylenol and a condom. …It should be as easy as buying heroin, basically.”
There are more naloxone than ever before thanks to federal and state policies and groups like Blanchard distributing naloxone in local communities. naloxone kits) and Philadelphia vending machines. One group, NEXT Distro, ships free nationwide. But Murray’s vision isn’t close to being realized in most places.
An influx of funds is underway to address the nationwide overdose crisis that killed 107,000 people in 2021. This is the highest tally of all time and involves fentanyl and other powerful illicit synthetic opioids the most.
Pharmaceutical companies, distributors and pharmacies settle lawsuits with state and local governments with initial funding totaling over $50 billion. Most of it must be used to combat the opioid epidemic, but exactly how the money is received is up to the government. It has been.
In a 2021 report, public health experts convened by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health cites expanding access to naloxone as the first strategy for using the settlement money, citing an overdose. They point out that 40% of ingestion deaths occur when someone else is present and can probably control it. life-saving medicine.
As with other harm reduction strategies, there has been backlash from those who believe that making naloxone available will enable drug use. Love thinks it’s no longer so much of an issue.
Instead, he said funding and distribution programs remain spotty, with insufficient support from governments and private groups such as chambers of commerce. We will continue to do more and more funerals until we deal with it.”
Since 2016, the federal government has allowed and encouraged the use of federal funds to purchase naloxone.
Authorities in all states have issued ongoing orders to pharmacies to allow people to purchase it without a prescription.
This is a major factor in the significant increase in volumes distributed through retail pharmacies. In 2012, he had over 1,000 orders, according to reports from the American Medical Association and his IQVIA Human Data Science Institute. By 2021, it will be nearly 1.2 million.
However, not all pharmacies carry them. It also costs money. If you don’t have insurance, two doses cost about $50.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering making some forms of naloxone available over the counter without a prescription. This helps keep costs down.
Randy Anderson, who is also recovering and works as a recovery consultant, said he has distributed about 100,000 doses of naloxone in Minnesota. I also believe that it does not do much to help those who need it most.
“There was no way I could spend $10 on something to save a life when I needed that money to buy medicine,” he said.
Besides cost, there are other barriers to getting naloxone to drug users.
For example, Alabama requires a pharmacist, physician, or public health nurse to be involved in distribution. However, states have programs to mail antidotes to anyone who requests them.
Maya Doe-Simkins, co-director of the Remedy Alliance/For The People, who helps provide naloxone to groups working to prevent overdose deaths, says the program will provide drug users with an antidote. Providing drugs is not always a priority.
“If they’re not matched and pointed where they should be, more and more naloxone will end up on shelves in church basements and expire,” she said.
Colin Dwyer, a former social entrepreneur at the Stanford School of Business, founded the Overdose Crisis Response Fund in an attempt to boost small-scale distribution efforts around the country, including Blanchard’s in Albany.
“What I really care about is what has the potential to save the most lives the fastest,” Dwyer said.
One of his grantees, Talia Rogers, distributes naloxone and other supplies through Show Me Harm Reduction, a one-man operation in Kirksville, Missouri.
She is now a consultant at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and uses state federal grants to obtain naloxone.
“If they’re not getting Narcan or naloxone through me, they’re not getting it,” Rogers said.
Ron Stewart, emergency preparedness planner for Adare County, which includes Kirksville, said naloxone is currently only available to first responders, but the state’s program will soon be available to the public. is hoping for
In Albany, Blanchard gets naloxone through Georgia Opioid Prevention, which receives state grants.
In 2022, she has given out more than 1,800 doses. That’s far more than the Southwest Georgia Public Health District distributed her 280 doses to people and community organizations who showed up at the Department of Health’s office in an isolated corner of Albany.
One of her clients uses illegal drugs, so she asked to be identified only by her first name, Jomo.
Blanchard said 26 people have come to her group to help get into treatment programs, and 19 are not currently using them.
In 2018, she recalled desperately trying to help her teenage daughter. My 22 year old daughter is still using it.
“She’s so beautiful, so perfect,” said Blanchard. “Harm thanks to her reduction, she’s still alive, healthy, and thriving.”
Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Scientific and Educational Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.