Naloxone kits and training for law enforcement and other first responders to help them respond to life-threatening opioid overdoses have saved over 500 individuals as of the first weekend in June – a milestone that highlights the importance of the Arkansas Naloxone Project and efforts to educate Arkansans about opioid addiction.
“This was never a number we wanted to reach, but I am so thankful that this program exists because that is 500 people who got a second chance at life because of naloxone,” said State Drug Director Kirk Lane, who works with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Aging, Adult, and Behavioral Health Services.
In October 2016, the Arkansas Naloxone Project began distributing the kits to law enforcement agencies, rural fire and EMS organizations, school nurses, librarians, and treatment and recovery facilities. The kits included a nasal form of naloxone called Narcan. Narcan is an FDA-approved medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid-induced overdose. The Project, which is a partnership among the State Drug Director’s Office, DHS, and the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), has distributed over 7,000 Narcan kits and has provided training to over 8,000 first responders. The kits are funded through federal grants and private grants from the Arkansas Blue & You Foundation.
Illicit and prescription drugs that are opioids or mixed with opioids cause most overdoses and overdose deaths in Arkansas. The ability to administer Narcan has proven to be effective in reducing overdose deaths. There have been lives saved through this project in 33 of Arkansas’s 75 counties, with the most saves in Pulaski County (Arkansas’s most populous county).
Since the COVID 19 public health emergency began in March, Arkansas overdoses increased due to economic, social, and isolation pressures. The Arkansas Naloxone Project recorded 92 saves in this time period compared with 44 during the same period in 2019.
“One thing to know, especially during this time, is that people don’t have to wait for first responders to save a loved one who overdosed,” Lane said. “To reduce the chance of people dying, Governor Asa Hutchinson has issued a standing order allowing Arkansas-licensed pharmacists to sell naloxone to people who have friends and loved ones at risk of overdosing.”
Arkansas Code Annotated 20-13-604 provides immunity from civil liability to those who administer naloxone during an overdose.
To help people administer the medication, the State Drug Director’s Office and Criminal Justice Institute created the nARcansas app, which is a free opioid overdose resource that provides steps on how to administer a life-saving dose of naloxone as well as other valuable resources about opioids. Earlier this year, the app was updated to include voice directions in English and Spanish for administering naloxone.
To download the app, go Google Play or the Apple App Store. To learn more about the State’s efforts to combat opioid abuse, go to www.artakeback.org. To get mental health or addiction help for yourself or a loved one in Arkansas, please call 1-844-763-0198.