HOLYOKE — As part of a recently launched statewide program to reach those most at risk, MiraVista Behavioral Health Center is able to make available, for free and without a prescription, the life-saving medication naloxone, which can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose in minutes.
The medication, which is best known as an easy-to-administer nasal spray under the brand name Narcan, is available at the reception desk in the hospital’s main lobby. It is recommended for anyone who is at increased risk for an opioid overdose or knows someone at risk, and has been available without a prescription from retail pharmacies in the state but with costs paid out of pocket if not covered by insurance.
“Our front office staff have been trained to both use Narcan and educate those who request it on how to administer it,” said Kimberley Lee, chief of Creative Strategy and Development at MiraVista, which offers a range of substance-use recovery services. “It is our hope that this free distribution, without any barriers, will encourage individuals to come in and obtain a box of Narcan with two nasal sprays to have for themselves or to administer to someone they know who is at risk for an opioid overdose. Having it available to quickly use in the event of an opioid overdose can be a matter of life and death.”
MiraVista also has magnets in English and Spanish available to anyone that concisely review how to administer Narcan, symptoms to look for, when a second dose might be needed, and other rescue steps.
Naloxone has been credited with saving thousands of lives and helping to plateau the rise in drug-overdose deaths that last year claimed some 110,000 lives in the U.S. Education around naloxone seeks to promote understanding of addiction not as a moral failing, as it sometimes is perceived, but as a disease that can be fatal without intervention and treatment.
MiraVista met state regulations to become an affiliate of the Community Naloxone Purchasing Program (CNPP), recently created by the state with money it received from a national settlement involving lawsuits against wholesalers and manufacturers of opioids.
CNPP allows affiliates to bulk purchase Narcan at partial or full subsidy — similar to access that already exists for entities that distribute it to first responders — from the State Office of Pharmacy and to dispense it to individuals for free for their personal use. Affiliates are required to provide training in how to administer the nasal spray and education around harm reduction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one report has shown that 80% of overdose deaths have occurred in the home and that 40% of overdose deaths occurred with someone else present.
Research suggests that wider distribution of the medication is needed in many states and estimates that greater distribution of the nasal spray through community-based programs that reach both those at risk and potential bystanders to an opioid overdose will increase the likelihood it will be used and the largest number of lives saved.
A spray into one nostril quickly reverses an opioid overdose by blocking receptors to which opioids bind in the brain. A second dose can be given in the other nostril if a person does not wake up from overdosing within two or three minutes of the first dose.