Naloxone is a medicine used to interrupt opioid overdose. It can be administered as a nasal mist or it can be injected. Those certified to administer naloxone carry a kit and can administer the drug at any time to anyone who appears to be in opioid overdose, which can be fatal. The drug is instantly effective and safe.
“Methadone is an opioid, as are common prescription drugs like Percocet and Vicodin,” says Aaron Felder, AVP for Special Populations at NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers. “These drugs are easy to obtain, cheap, and there’s widespread abuse of them.”
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) drug overdose is a leading cause of accidental death in N.Y.C.
In an attempt to reverse the overdose and save lives CMP has been working closely with the N.Y.C. Department of Homeless Services, and NYC DOHMH to become a certified training program in the use of naloxone (meaning that CMP staffers can train and certify others to administer the drug). “The idea is to train our own staff and other staff in shelters so that lives can be saved,” he said.
To date, the availability of the drug has not been widespread and many emergency responders don’t have access to it. The new program hopes to make an impact by putting the drug in the right hands.
And the program has already proved to be a life saver when in early March a nurse practitioner administered naloxone to an unconscious shelter resident who had overdosed. The resident was revived quickly due to the administration of naloxone and the fact that the staffer had been trained recently and equipped with an emergency kit.
“Getting naloxone in the right hands so it can be administered quickly will have a tremendous impact on reversing countless overdoses,” says Bill Pagano, MD, MPH, SVP Clinical Operations. “It’s powerful evidence that harm-reduction programs work and as others debate where and when to introduce the drug to more front line staff and first responders, we are using it and saving lives.”
The emergency naloxone kit (pictured) provided by the Harm Reduction Coalition contains two doses of intranasal naloxone, a rescue breathing face shield, one pair of gloves and alcohol prep pads.
So far more than 60 people have been trained to administer naloxone in the Community Medicine Program.
“As health care continues to evolve and change, it’s becoming more important to co-locate services and respond to people where they are, with what they need to get healthy and stay healthy” said Mr. Felder.
NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers' Community Medicine Program provides health care services to homeless populations at 15 sites throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. The program operates at 15 shelters, drop-in centers and SRO hotels throughout New York City, where interdisciplinary teams provide direct medical care, outreach, health screenings, health education, case management, crisis intervention and long-term counseling to New York City’s homeless individuals. Click here to learn more.