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DDPHE to ship Naloxone to city and county residents after weeks-long backlog

Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose in minutes, and it's becoming more accessible
Posted at 9:24 PM, Apr 13, 2022

DENVER — More than 4,000 orders for free Naloxone will finally be shipped soon after a weeks-long backlog, according to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.

The department was flooded with requests after it publicized its program to send free overdose-reversing kits in February, and its supply was quickly depleted.

Naloxone, often called by its brand name Narcan, is an FDA-approved medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. DDPHE says it received approximately 4,500 requests in February and March, compared to only about 500 in the five months prior.

“We did not have that supply on hand because we had never pushed out that much before,” said Marion Rorke, Substance Use Resource Coordinator for DDPHE.

The combination of the surge in demand and distribution issues from suppliers led to requests going unfulfilled for much of February and March. DDPHE is now restocked after receiving nearly 3,000 kits this month. The department is honoring requests in the order they were received and hopes to continue receiving regular shipments of 500 kits going forward.

“So, folks will start receiving their things,” Rorke said. “We’re really excited about that. We are so thrilled that everyone wants to carry Narcan and learn how to check their drugs and make sure that people in their communities are safe.”

Increased attention caused the spike in requests for Naloxone in February, but the need has been growing over the past decade. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, 1,477 people died from drug overdose in the state in 2020, up from 1,072 in 2019 and 653 in 2010. That marks a 126% increase over the course of a decade.

Advocates say the numbers would be even higher without this life-saving medication.

Samantha Rabins, a program manager for Mental Health Center of Denver, always carries Naloxone and was able to save a man about five years ago. She says she was meeting with one of the center’s partners when a person rushed in off the street to report a man outside experiencing an overdose.

“We walked outside, and the person was very evidently overdosing on the ground,” Rabins recalled. “We were able to deploy Narcan. I also was able to call for backup with police and fire and medics in order to get them transported to get the care they needed post-Naloxone. And they were revived."

“It’s a really out-of-body experience to watch someone in the process of dying, and it’s not something I ever signed up for," Rabins continued. "As a social worker, you know, my job is to prevent people from getting to that point. And so my thought is, what can I do to save this person? It’s so amazing to be able to have a tool to be able to revive someone and give someone a second shot to continue to live their life the best that they can.”

If you are a resident of the city or county of Denver and would like to carry naloxone, you can request it here. Those outside of city limits can find other locations to obtain the medication at stoptheclockcolorado.org.