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Naloxone boxes installed in public for use against overdoses

Opioid Crisis Overdose Antidote
Posted at 10:05 AM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 20:27:57-05

APPLETON, Wis (NBC26) -- There's a problem in our community and the numbers show it's getting worse. According to health experts, 2020 was the worst year since 2018 for suspected opioid overdoses in northeastern Wisconsin.

According to the most recent data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, opioid overdoses killed nearly 920 people in Wisconsin in 2019.

"Overdoses are higher than they've ever been and I do think covid is playing a role," says Dr. Alison Miller a family medicine physician at UW Health.

Dr. Miller says during the pandemic fewer people are going to the doctor and more and more people are using drugs alone. She says these are some of the factors likely contributing to more opioid overdoses.

"The new recommendation to help prevent overdoses is to have more naloxone in the community."

Naloxone is the generic version of Narcan, a medication that requires no prescription that is supposed to reverse the effects of an overdose.

"In 2020 more than 900 people came to our office to tell us that they were able to save a life using naloxone. Specifically at our Appleton and Green Bay offices that was 300 (cases)," says Kristen Grimes the Director of Prevention Services at Vivent Health.

According to Grimes, Vivent Health has been giving the life-saving medication away for years. But today, thanks to a partnership between Wisconsin Voices for Recovery and state-wide healthcare providers, there are now nearly a dozen more healthcare systems across the state who will be following suit and installing boxes in their clinics with doses of naloxone for the public to utilize.

"By expanding our access to naloxone we can make sure that we remove the stigma from drug use and then we can make sure people have access to this life-saving medicine," adds Grimes.

"Right now, we are just trying to look at more like overdose hot spots and really trying to get it where they are located. But I hope that one day, this is just in airports, in schools, at places where people are congregating like libraries. I meant the list can go on and on and on," Dr. Miller.

The hope is that with more access and fewer barriers to the medication, healthcare leaders can take away some of the stigma and cost related to getting the life-saving drug.

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With opioid overdoses setting records in 2020, an effort is underway to install boxes in public that would make a frequently used rescue medication available in case of emergency.

A group called Wisconsin Voices for Recovery is working with Milwaukee-based pharmacy Serve You Rx to install naloxone boxes around the state.

The drug, more commonly known as Narcan, can be administered without a prescription. Wisconsin Public Radio reports the effort comes as more than 81,000 people died of opioid overdoses last year, including more than 500 in Milwaukee County.

Dr. Alison Miller of UW Health said giving naloxone is easy and patients usually revive within minutes.

She said the naloxone boxes should be seen as similar to the automated external defibrillators in so many public places. The defibrillators can shock a stopped heart back to life.

Each box will contain naloxone nasal spray, instructions on how to administer the drug, and information about resources for treatment and recovery support. State money is helping support the effort.