Most public policy matters follow legitimate debate: officials weigh benefits against costs, then make a decision.
That's not the case with an initiative, announced in the Herald-Press Thursday, to put a life-saving drug called Naloxone in Palestine's city vehicles and buildings. It's a no-brainer that doesn't require debate.
Over the last decade, first responders nationwide, including law enforcement, have used Naloxone to save tens of thousands of lives by reversing the toxic effects of opioid overdoses. Opioids include heroin and prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, and the especially lethal Fentanyl.
With only upsides, the plan, hatched by Mayor Steve Presley, should move forward without delay. The Texas Department of Health will even provide Naloxone kits –normally about $45 each – to municipalities without cost.
Presley wants 60 to 100 kits made available in Palestine, including stickers to alert the public, within a month or so.
Naloxone, a nasal spray that blocks opioid receptor sites, is completely safe. Under the state's Good Samaritan laws, users face no risk of liability. Training to administer Naloxone takes maybe five minutes.
“We want to save lives,” Presley told the Herald-Press this week. “This is a simple, safe way to do it and, potentially, get people into treatment.”
Presley will discuss the Naloxone initiative, which does not require council approval, at a council meeting next week. It's a great opportunity to educate Palestine's elected leaders about a public health crisis. The nationwide epidemic, triggered by the explosion of prescription painkillers in the 1990s, has killed nearly 400,000 Americans in the last two decades.
True, East Texas is not a so-called opioid hot spot, such as West Virginia, southern Ohio, Appalachia, and New Hampshire. But opioid abuse remains an enormous problem here. Just ask Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor, a local pharmacist, or any physician licensed to dispense Suboxone, a drug used in medication-assisted treatment.
“It's a big problem," Presley said. “As a pharmacist, I'm seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
While he's setting up the Naloxone program in the city, Presley ought to persuade Anderson County officials to also equip their vehicles and buildings, including the Anderson County Jail, with the life-saving drug.
With the state donating Naloxone kits, equipping vehicles and offices with them should be a no-brainer for the City of Palestine and Anderson County.