Penn. County Coroner, First Responders Receive $5M Grant for Naloxone
The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.
Dec. 07—There's no prescription to cure addiction but there is a life-saving antidote for heroin and opioid users experiencing a potentially fatal overdose.
Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg, and the Montour County Coroner's Office are among coordinating entities across 61 of 67 counties in the state approved by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to receive naloxone through a $5 million grant program.
Naloxone blocks the psychoactive effects of opioids, essentially sobering-up a user near-instantly. Administered nasally or intravenously, it has saved countless lives across Pennsylvania and the U.S.
Evangelical's program, the Central Pennsylvania Opioid Overdose Reversal Project, is credited with saving 42 lives since 2016. It has provided 174 kits —medication, nasal atomizer, gloves—to 26 organizations, including 16 police departments in Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties.
"While there is no quick-fix for addiction in our community, the naloxone kit program can give someone with a substance abuse issue another day to make a decision to change their lives," said Dr. John Devine, an emergency doctor and vice president of medical affairs at the hospital. "If someone survives an overdose, steps toward treatment and behavioral and mental health intervention can be made."
Case managers in the hospital's Emergency Department speak with overdose patients about available resources toward encouraging treatment for those with a substance use disorder. Referrals are made to the CMSU Service System and Geisinger's medication-assisted treatment clinic at its Bloomsburg hospital.
"To hear how many saves we've had in a short two-year period of time it's been up and running, I think that's remarkable for our small three-county area of Pennsylvania. It's representative of what a large problem this is," Devine said.
The kits are intended for law enforcement, firefighters and corrections officers, of course. Professions perhaps not thought of as potentially needing naloxone are also eligible including librarians, public transit drivers and after-school program personnel.
The funding was included in the state's 2017-18 budget.
"Because of their action, 13,752 kits of naloxone—that's 27,504 doses—are now available to these counties to help revive overdose victims," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release announcing the initial recipients.
A naloxone program in Montour County is getting its start as a result of the funding.
Coroner Scott Lynn will offer naloxone to police officers, the county sheriff and deputies, probation officers and fire departments. He expects to keep some doses for the Coroner's Office, too, since potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl can cause an overdose simply through touch—a danger to investigators.
"We not only investigate death but we also like to prevent death," Lynn said. "The next step is finding the person help. It can't just stop with the administration of Narcan (a brand of naloxone)."
State and municipal police in Pennsylvania alone reversed 5,704 overdoses since late 2014. That doesn't account for ambulance personnel and hospital emergency rooms or other types of law enforcement as well as laypersons who've administered the medication.
A standing order from Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine allows any resident to purchase the medication at a pharmacy without a direct prescription from a prescriber.
An estimated 64,000 people died of a drug overdose across the United States in 2016, a 22 percent increase from the year prior, including more than 4,600 in Pennsylvania. That's a 37 percent increase for the Keystone State. Eighty-five percent of the cases involved heroin and opioids.