The St. Louis County Health Department is distributing free bottles of an overdose antidote to save people addicted to opioids.
The department announced Monday it is offering naloxone at its health clinic in north St. Louis County and at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton. When given to a person who has overdosed on opioids, the medicine can immediately reverse the effects of the overdose.
Naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, was first carried by paramedics and emergency rooms, said Dr. Emily Doucette, co-director of the health department. But in recent years, many laypeople have started carrying it so they can help anyone who might have an overdose.
“Anyone can carry Narcan, that’s the message that we’re promoting,” she said. “Increasingly, there are opportunities for anyone to be able to save a life, very simply. Certainly there are people or professions or environments that are higher risk … but anyone can and should carry it.”
Health officials have said that naloxone has saved thousands of lives in the St. Louis region since 2017.
A two-pack of Narcan spray can cost more than $100 when bought over the counter. The prohibitive cost is one of the reasons the health department wanted to make it available free of charge, said Spring Schmidt, health department co-director.
Department personnel won’t ask for identification for people who request naloxone. County health workers will train people how to use the medicine.
Having the naloxone available also sends a message to people with addiction and their families, Schmidt said.
“We have to offer a sense of hope to people that are wrestling with this, whether it’s their own addiction or addiction of a family member,” she said. “They can get through this, they can survive, and there’s an industry and organization that cares about you that’s willing to support you in that moment.”
The county also will distribute free naloxone through community partners such as the Salvation Army.
In the past, Salvation Army workers have had to wait for emergency personnel to revive people from an overdose, said Jamarcus Smith, the organization's director of rehabilitation services.
“If you know someone that’s struggling but not yet ready to come in [for treatment], it’s probably best to stop by and pick up a pack, just in case of an emergency,” he said.
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