Local health dept. hopes to save lives with free distribution of NARCAN

Published: Apr. 18, 2019 at 4:40 PM CDT
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More than 100 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's a nationwide issue that's also taken a strong hold in Kentucky.

"We have a nation-wide problem with opioid use so we're seeing it start to kind of pick up here too, and we want to keep people safe. We want to save lives," said Ashley Lillard, Health Education Coordinator at the Barren River District Health Department in Warren County.

Thursday, for the first time ever, the health department started a new program, where it's giving away NARCAN -- free of charge -- to the public.

"NARCAN is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of a lethal opioid overdose," explained Lillard.

She said NARCAN can be pricey to purchase for an individual. It's typically administered by health professionals or law enforcement.

Just this week, the Warren County Sheriff's Office was able to revive a person suffering from an apparent opioid overdose on Blue Level Road by using NARCAN.

Sheriff Brett Hightower said NARCAN was something he wanted to make sure his department was equipped with when he took office.

Now, community members can have access to the overdose reversal medication themselves, and cost won't be a factor.

"It's important to get that (NARCAN) into the hands of as many people as we can because the more people who have it, the more people who can respond in an emergency situation," said Lillard.

The health department is also offering training on how to properly administer the medication, which Lillard said only works on overdoses caused by opioids.

"It (NARCAN) will not harm anyone. So if that's not what's going on and you administer (it) to the person, it won't cause any harm," she said.

Lillard said the Barren River District Health Department got the NARCAN through a state program, and it's available to the public from 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Thursdays, which is the same time as the needle exchange program.

"We were given this amazing opportunity to get this for our clients at no cost to the agency and at no cost to the client," said Lillard.

It's unclear at this time exactly how long supplies will last. The health department said within the first hour of offering NARCAN on Thursday, there was a good turnout from the community.

"I hope that people will come in, utilize the service, get the NARCAN for friends and family members, or even for people who use opioids themselves to protect themselves," said Lillard.

She said there is not a limit on how many times someone can come back and get additional amounts of NARCAN from the health department.