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St. Joseph Northwest Health Services are handing out free naloxone kits to work against the opioid epidemic occurring in the area.

Northwest Health Services is a nonprofit organization that has partnered with Direct Relief to encourage at-risk patients to pick up these kits.

The opioid epidemic has been affecting all of the United States since the early 2000s. According to the Missouri Department of Health, there were 1,132 deaths in Missouri due to an opioid overdose.

“The opioid epidemic affects all genders, all races and many age groups in both rural and urban Missouri communities,” according to the Missouri Department of Health.

Naloxone is a medication that comes in injections or nasal spray and is used to stop potential opioid overdose. It does this by making sure the central nervous system and respiratory system don’t go into shock and the person can breathe normally. The drug is nonaddictive and only works if opioids are in the person's system, otherwise it won’t do anything for the person.

Director of Pharmacy at Northwest Health Services Miranda Phillips is the head of this program. She said this kit is a necessity for people dealing with addiction, especially in the state of crisis parts of the country are going through right now.

“We were declared in a state of emergency because of the opioid epidemic. So, we are able to give this to any Northwest patient who says they need one,” Phillips said.

The kit contains two vials of the injectable naloxone, two syringes, two alcohol swabs, a pair of gloves and directions for use so they can safely use the product.

Phillips said they have only been able to hand out the injectable vials, but she said she hopes that changes because some people get squeamish around needles.

“It’s not the nasal spray. We’re hoping at some point we can get that but we haven’t been able to yet,” Phillips said.

Phillips said these kits can really impact people's lives and make a difference in the community they live in.

“The more we can get out there into the community, the more we can train people and show them this is something good to have out there, the better off we are,” Phillips said.

According to the Emergency Medical Services website, this program is also happening in other places across the country like Washington, New York, California and Ohio. The Emergency Medical Services started its program in 2017, where the St. Joseph project just began recently.

In other places, healthcare providers are able to release the nasal spray, which is something Phillips was looking forward to doing in the future.

According to the Systematic Review of the Emergency Medical Services, it is looking to use this program to see its effectiveness in different places.

“The objective is to compare different routes, doses and dosing strategies of naloxone administration for suspected opioid overdose by emergency medical services personnel in field settings. Also to compare effects of transport to a health care facility versus non-transport following successful reversal of opioid overdose with naloxone,” according to the Systematic Review.

The Emergency Medical Services said the reason they did this program was to test whether or not the naloxone was even working for people.

“The purpose of this was to determine different strategies of naloxone for suspected opioid overdose in out-of-hospital settings and whether transport to a hospital following successful opioid overdose reversal with naloxone is necessary,” according to the Systematic Review.

The kits can be retrieved by going into a Northwest Health Services office and asking for one. The office has to document it to make sure the Missouri state government is aware of how much product is going and where, but it is open to anyone who is in need.

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