Palestine Mayor Steve Presley wants to equip most city vehicles and buildings with the life-saving drug Naloxone. Over the last decade, first responders nationwide, including law enforcement, have used the kits to save tens of thousands of lives by reversing the toxic effects of opioid overdoses.
Presley said stickers would mark city vehicles and buildings containing Naloxone – often called Narcan – to alert the public. The program could start in a month, following brief training on how to administer the drug. Naloxone kits include a nasal spray that blocks opioid receptor sites.
Palestine would need 60 to 100 Naloxone kits. The Texas Department of Health would provide them at no cost, Presley said. Naloxone kits typically cost about $45 each.
“We want to save lives,” Presley told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “This is a simple, safe way to do it and, potentially, get people into treatment.”
Addiction to opioids – including heroin and prescription painkillers like OxyCodone and Vicodin – has afflicted millions of Americans and become a national health crisis. The use of Fentanyl to make impure heroin more potent has made the epidemic even more lethal.
Traditionally, success rates for overcoming opioid addiction have been less than 10 percent. The increasing use of medication-assisted treatment, however, especially Suboxone, has increased success rates for opioid treatment dramatically. Medication-assisted treatment greatly reduces the horrific agony of withdrawal.
Naloxone is completely safe, Presley said. “Unless you have an opioid toxicity, it doesn't do anything to you.”
He also said the state's broad Good Samaritan laws protect people using the kits from liability.
The mayor will discuss the proposal at a city council meeting next week, though it would not require council approval.
Every day, more than 100 Americans die of drug overdoses, mostly from heroin and other opioids.
East Texans generally understand the dangers of Methamphetamine, but they are less aware of the opioid epidemic, Presley said. “As a pharmacist, I'm seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “It's a big problem here.”
Opioid addiction is a disease, marked by compulsion and seduction. “It's like touching the hand of God,” one heroin addict told the editor of the Herald-Press, when asked to describe the euphoria of an opioid high.
Advocates argue the price of Naloxone kits is far lower than the average inpatient charge for a drug overdose – more than $10,000 – much of which is paid for by tax dollars.
Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, of Toledo, a national leader in linking law enforcement to drug treatment resources, has equipped his vehicles and jail in northeast Ohio with Narcan since 2014. The kits, he said, have saved hundreds of lives in Lucas County, some of them in the Lucas County jail.
Tharp's D.A.R.T. unit (Drug Abuse Response Team), with more than 15 officers, has become a national model among law enforcement agencies.
“Saving a life is a no-brainer,” said Tharp, a lifelong cop and decorated combat veteran. “It gives them another chance to get clean. Opioid addiction is a disease. It's not a choice that you can control.”