Evansville receives opioid rescue kits out there in Indiana
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The destigma of addiction is a key battle in fighting the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the nation, and the Midwest in particular, for the past two decades.
It’s also an utterly uphill battle, which Lavender Timmons acknowledges in her role as director and co-founder of the Evansville Recovery Alliance.
“I understand why people have reservations about things like narcan and needle sharing,” said Timmons. “At the same time, these are strategies recommended by health organizations and we’ve seen positive results when implemented. I think people get these ideas.”
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For this reason, the organization, in collaboration with Overdose Lifeline from Indianapolis, has installed “Opioid Rescue Kits” at two locations in Evansville. A clearly labeled, weatherproof and easy-to-open box contains a dose of naloxone, commonly known under the brand name Narcan. Naloxone can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain and allowing the person to breathe again. Oxygen starvation is the leading cause of death from overdose.
Each box also includes a set of written and illustrated instructions for administering the drug, as well as information on Indiana Good Samaritan Law, which makes it legal to wear and administer Narcan without prior training or licensing.
A dose of Narcan can cost anywhere from $ 60 to $ 300, depending on the device delivering the medicine. That’s a financial difficulty for many people, Timmons said, and all the more so in an emergency where immediacy is of the essence.
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“Our goal with the boxes is to make it as accessible and free as possible in order to break down the barriers for people with Narcan,” she said. “Even people who have been prescribed opioids are recommended to wear them. It’s not a lifestyle thing; anyone can become addicted to opioids.”
The two boxes in Evansville are located at 1035 North Fourth Street and 30 East Virginia Street. Both places are designated as community gardens and are highly frequented areas.
Timmons said the organization was “lucky” to receive two of the first kits in the state, but also recognized the reason why the Evansville area is a particularly high risk of drug overdoses.
In 2019, she said the average Indiana county had five to seven overdoses a month. During the same period, Vanderburgh County reported up to 35 overdoses per month.
While some progress has been made since then, Timmons said the number is now likely to be higher as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the stressors that drive people to use more drugs.
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Unlike the intramuscular version, which is given through a hypodermic needle, the Narcan dispenser in the emergency kits is a nasal spray that almost anyone can easily handle and use, Timmons said.
“It is similar to a lot of anti-allergy devices,” she said. “All you have to do is press a button and that’s it.”
This ease of use, in turn, contributes significantly to the destigmatization of Narcan. Timmons said it’s also important that people know that Narcan is safe if accidentally given to someone who doesn’t have opioids on their system, as it only blocks the opioid receptors in the brain.
“I think there was fear or shame about wearing Narcan,” she said. “This can enable people to understand, and it can save someone’s life.”
“Harm reduction” practices like the Narcan kits and syringe sharing not only help save lives in the short term, they can also help addicts in a broader sense by introducing them to a community of people who can understand their struggle and help them keep themselves busy with their problems.
“We are an organization made up of people with first-hand experience,” she said. “We will accept anyone at every stage of recovery. It is one of the hardest things a person can do, but there are so many resources and a whole community to turn to for help and support.”
If you or a loved one is battling addiction, the Evansville Recovery Alliance encourages you to reach out on Facebook at facebook.com/evvrecoveryalliance. There is also a national hotline attached to the Never Use Alone Project at 800-484-3731.