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Opioid Grant To Supply Connecticut Hospitals With Naloxone For At-Risk Overdose Patients

Ryan Caron King
A volunteer packs naloxone kits at the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coatlition.

Connecticut emergency departments will get free supplies of naloxone, the opioid antidote, to start distributing the reversal drug to patients as they leave the hospital.

State officials announced Wednesday that nearly 6,000 doses of naloxone have been ordered and are being delivered to all emergency departments throughout the state in an effort to get the overdose reversal drug into more hands.

The medications are being supplied at no cost to the hospitals. The state is receiving $400,000 over the next two years from a federal State Opioid Response Grant to equip the hospitals with more naloxone.

“Getting this life-saving medication into the hands of those most at risk for an opioid overdose is crucial to not only reducing the number of fatal overdoses, but giving individuals another chance so they may begin treatment for opioid use disorder and start their path of recovery,” Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said in a statement.

While the number of overdose deaths in Connecticut last year showed a slight decline from previous years, state data show opioids like heroin and fentanyl were involved in the majority of cases.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill announced earlier this month that 1,017 people died from accidental drug intoxication last year.

Naloxone, commonly known by the brand Narcan, has been successful in preventing opioid overdose deaths. The medication is in high demand, but prices have risen.

One brand of an injectable or intranasal dose cost about $20 in 2009. A two-pack of nasal spray doses by another brand reached $150 by 2015, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The grant-funded supplies of naloxone will be given to overdose survivors and their loved ones as they are discharged from the hospital.

The medication will also be given to any patients who may be at risk of an opioid overdose, regardless of the reason for admission to the hospital, state officials said. Patients and their families will get information on how to recognize an opioid overdose, how to use naloxone and what do to after.

The effort is a collaboration between the state departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Consumer Protection, as well as the Connecticut Hospital Association.

“Connecticut hospitals play an important role in helping to stem the tide of opioid abuse,” said Carl Schiessl, senior director of regulatory advocacy at the Connecticut Hospital Association. “We are pleased to partner with the state on this important initiative, which will save lives and help people get started with their recovery.”

People interested in addiction and treatment help can call the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ access line at 800-563-4086 or see www.ct.gov/dmhas/opioidresources.

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

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