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New tool aimed to fight overdose epidemic within pandemic

Posted at 6:54 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 19:54:59-05

MILWAUKEE — Doctors warn of an epidemic within the pandemic: Drug overdoses are at an all-time high. That’s why local advocates are working to make sure everyone has access to a potentially life-saving tool.

Leaders with Wisconsin Voices for Recovery installed a Nalox-Zone Box at Alarus Healthcare in West Bend Thursday. It contains two Naloxone nasal sprays. Naloxone is commonly referred to as Narcan, which can be life-saving in the case of an opioid overdose. Each Nalox-Zone Box also contains instructions and drug recovery resources.

The Nalox-Zone boxes are not just for sudden emergency revival. People can come take the Narcan, so they have it on hand for friends and family.

“They can grab the Narcan and take it home, no questions asked,” said Jessica Geschke, with Wisconsin Voices for Recovery. “That’s the most important part of this.”

“Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with addiction, so a lot of people aren’t utilizing Narcan as they could, which is why we’re so proud to support this initiative to get more of it into the community,” said Debbie Echlin, the Vice President for Clinical Programs for Serve You Rx.

Serve You Rx is paying for this pilot program, to get at least 25 Nalox-Zone Boxes in communities throughout Wisconsin, at businesses, shelters, and doctor’s offices. The goal is to keep expanding the program and get them in as many places as possible.

“It's amazing to have this box here,” said Michael Owen, the owner of Alarus Healthcare. “This can, and will, save lives.”

When opened, each Nalox-Zone Box sends out a notification to leaders of Wisconsin Voices for Recovery. They’re able to remotely track box usage to help ensure the Narcan is restocked quickly.

“You don’t need a prescription, you don’t need to go into a pharmacy or doctor’s office and explain yourself,” said Dr. Alison Miller, a physician with UW Health. “Maybe it’s not something you’re comfortable talking about yet. But you’re able to get your hands on this life-saving medication. That’s a game-changer. We just advise that whenever you administer Narcan to someone, you also call 911.“

A study done by JAMA Psychiatry, published this month, found overall Emergency Room visits for opioid overdoses during the Covid-19 Pandemic are up nearly 30 percent, as compared to the same time in 2019.

“The highest rates of overdoses are happening right now,” Dr. Miller said. “Overdoses are the highest they’ve ever been in history. It’s a huge challenge. The more Narcan that’s out there readily available, the likelier it is that someone can access it in the most critical situations.”

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