The Union County Health Department (UCHD) has received a grant to facilitate distribution of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effect of opioid overdoses, throughout the region.
UCHD, in partnership with four neighboring health departments, accepted the Integration of Naloxone Grant from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) at the Board of Health meeting Wednesday.
The grant provides 500 naloxone kits and $90,500. Shawn Sech, Director of Health Promotions and Planning at UCHD, said the funding will be used to distribute naloxone and administer a strategy that makes it more accessible.
“The goal is to get Narcan in people’s hands, but also to push harm reduction in our area,” Sech said.
She said the funding will be used to help make naloxone more readily available at health departments throughout the region.
Naloxone is currently available for free at Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided with Naloxone) sites, part of an ODH initiative to combat deaths caused by opioid overdoses.
At Project DAWN sites, any member of the public can receive a naloxone kit. At UCHD, kits include two doses of Narcan, the nasal spray form of the drug. Every individual who receives the kit will also go through an educational session about how and when to use it.
Through the grant, UCHD is partnering with Delaware General Health District, Kenton Hardin Health Department and Knox County Health Department, which each have Project DAWN sites. Funding will also be used to establish a Project DAWN site at Madison County Public Health.
Jennifer Thrush, Public Information Officer at UCHD, said partnering with neighboring counties made them a more competitive applicant for the grant.
“It also makes sense for residents who are crossing (county) borders… there’s a natural synergy in the region,” Thrush said.
The grant will also be used to establish mail-order distribution of naloxone. Sech said there will be an online form and educational video for individuals to receive a Narcan kit by mail.
She said distribution by mail is permitted by the State Board of Pharmacy, and is done successfully in Licking County.
In an attempt to reach more of the region, Sech said the grant will also be used to integrate naloxone distribution into treatment centers and special dockets, or drug courts.
“We’re truly trying to hit those high-risk populations,” she said.
Sech said this would allow treatment centers and judges to help provide naloxone to individuals who may be prone to opioid overdoses. She said the exact framework isn’t set yet, but this may be a referral system where kits are still provided directly by UCHD.
Ultimately, Thrush said the grant will help to prevent avoidable deaths in the area in the midst of the opioid epidemic. However, she said naloxone can be a resource to any individual who is taking opioid-based painkillers, not just intravenous drug users.
“I would encourage people to start expanding who you’re thinking this could be good for,” Thrush said.
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