Ohio sending Narcan kits to communities hit hardest by overdose deaths

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Recognizing a growing need, Ohio is equipping communities with the tools to stop opioid overdose deaths. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) announced they are shipping 60,000 doses of overdose reversal drug naloxone to the hardest-hit counties.

“This is an opportunity to make sure we’re sending those supplies into those areas and really connecting with people who need this,” said OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss.

Criss explained that naloxone, better known by its brand name Narcan, will go to 23 counties in the state that are seeing the most fatal overdoses and emergency room visits. OhioMHAS is working with the Ohio Department of Health and RecoveryOhio for the distribution.

Franklin County is receiving one of the largest shipments. The Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County will distribute 4,679 kits, among 17 zip codes, with the highest incidence rates.

“We’re trying to do all that we can in response,” said Dreanne Zimmerman, the clinical manager of addiction services for the ADAMH Board of Franklin County. “It’s in hopes to prevent another increase.”

Criss and Zimmerman attribute the surge in overdoses and drug use to the stress, isolation, and loss many experienced during the pandemic.

Criss added, “The bottom line is the supply of fentanyl in Ohio right now is prolific. It is the most available drug on the street.”

She explained the surge in overdoses is even higher in the state’s communities of color.

“Reaching those [Black and brown] families, neighborhoods, communities that are really differently and devastatingly impacted by opiate deaths right now is vitally important,” Criss said.

In early April, Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz reported 17 overdose deaths within four days. It was just the latest surge in a deadly year for individuals struggling with substance abuse.

“I know these are really critical numbers, these are really hard times for our friends to be isolated the way that they are. So we’re doing the best we can on the front lines,” said Donna Rieser of Jordan’s Crossing.

The faith-based resource center near the Hilltop area of Columbus works with Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone) to distribute Narcan at its Hague Avenue site and through community partners. Between March 2020-March 2021, the organization gave out more than 5,000 Narcan kits.

“Life-saving Narcan is what we call it at Jordan’s Crossing,” Rieser said.

She likened the past year to a ‘war zone’ in the addiction and recovery world and encouraged everyone to arm themselves with Narcan.

“A lot of our friends will say, ‘Oh I don’t need Narcan, I don’t know a drug addict.’ But that time you walk out of the grocery store, you’re at the gas station and you save someone’s life… it really is life-saving for the person,” Rieser said.

ADAMH county boards will work with local health partners to distribute Narcan and hold community events.

“These providers already have been responsive to the community needs. But they’re going to utilize their peer support specialists, they have mobile teams and other outreach teams that are going to go out in the community for distribution,” Zimmerman explained.

She said much of the outreach will begin in the coming weeks.

The following partners are working with the ADAMH Board of Franklin County to distribute Narcan kits:

Here’s a list of Project DAWN partners in Franklin County offering free Narcan kits and training:

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