People file into Greensburg health department office to free doses of overdose reversal drug
A steady stream of visitors left the state health department’s Greensburg office on Thursday with an item that could help save a life.
Beverly Lancaster of Jeannette thinks naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, is important to have after a neighbor who had a kit saved her grandson’s life about a year ago.
“Any life, if there’s a chance to save it, should be saved,” Lancaster said.
Dozens of people took advantage locally of a free statewide distribution of more than 5,100 kits of naloxone, each of which contain two doses of the potentially life-saving drug. State employees handed out the kits at 80 locations and and provided pamphlets and magnets about how to use it. Recipients watched a 90-second video of Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine demonstrate how to use the nasal spray.
It can reverse overdoses by blocking opioids’ effect on the brain and respiratory system.
Tim Phillips, director of the Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force, said the statewide effort is a great way to help. When naloxone started to be discussed publicly as an option a few years ago as a way to help reduce drug overdose deaths, there was skepticism from regular people who attended awareness and prevention forums, Phillips said.
But much of that has disappeared. The nasal spray is less intimidating, Phillips said.
“This stuff makes it a lot more convenient” and reduces fears, he said.
The drug is also regularly available at most pharmacies in Pennsylvania, at little or no cost for those with insurance, under a standing order Levine issued in 2015. Lancaster said her daughter’s best friend and the friend’s husband died from drug overdoses within a year of each other.
She thinks more people and businesses should be equipped to help anyone in need.
“There’s so many young people dying with this,” she said.
From 2007 through 2017, Westmoreland County experienced 1,018 overdose deaths — including a record-high 193 last year. As of Dec. 1, the county coroner’s office had confirmed 97 overdose deaths in 2018, with another 17 still being investigated.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.