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As Opioid Overdoses Climb, Allegheny County Receives More Than 2,000 Naloxone Doses

NARCAN nasal spray, the FDA-approved nasal form of Naloxone.

In an effort to combat the opioid crisis, the state has distributed more than 27,000 doses of naloxone to 59 counties across the commonwealth. The Allegheny County Health Department received 2,100 doses that will be delivered to local police, EMTs and other first responders.

Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can halt an opioid overdose before it becomes fatal. First responders have had access to naloxone since the passage of Act 139 in 2014, a law that allows them to administer the drug. Act 139 also allows pharmacists to prescribe the drug to families or friends of addicts.

Allegheny County Health Director Karen Hacker said this shipment from the state will fill some gaps.

"We've been hearing from police departments that they either have expired naloxone on the shelf they can no longer use and needs to be replaced, or, because of the volume that they're giving out, they need to get additional doses," Hacker said.

It's hard to know how many doses of the drug are distributed and used in Allegheny County because of the array of people who can access it. A spokesperson for Pittsburgh Public Safety said the department is working on a system to consolidate data on the naloxone usage of local police departments.

Prevention Point Pittsburgh, an organization that provides health services to injection drug users, said they distributed 3,440 doses of naloxone in the first 11 months of 2017. Of these doses, there were a documented 576 overdose reversals.

Opioid-related deaths in the Pittsburgh-area have grown in recent years. Hacker said there were more than 650 opioid overdose deaths in Allegheny County last year.

"At this point, given the lethality of what we're seeing, we're obligated to try to save as many lives as we can," she said. "And naloxone is the one drug that can reverse an overdose."

Kathleen J. Davis covers news about just about anything at WESA. She’s also the primary reporter and producer of WESA’s weekly series Pittsburgh Tech Report. Kathleen originally hails from the great state of Michigan, and is always available to talk about suburban Detroit and Coney Island diners. She lives in Bloomfield.