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Health officials urge more people to carry drug that reverses opioid overdoses

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Washington health officials Friday joined the U.S. Surgeon General in urging more Americans to carry naloxone —  a life-saving medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.

Naloxone is already carried by many first responders, such as EMTs and police officers, but state health officials are urging family, friends and individuals at risk for an opioid overdose to keep the drug on hand.

“Like many states, Washington is in the midst of an opioid epidemic,” Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a press release. “As we work to address this complex problem we must make sure the people struggling with opioid use have services and medicine that can literally save their lives.”

Weisman’s comments follow similar remarks made on Thursday by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams.

“Each day we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose — that’s one person every 12.5 minutes,” Adams said in a statement. “It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication, because 77 percent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home.”

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is sold over the counter in most states, including Oregon and Washington. It is available at the following Longview-Kelso area locations:

• CVS Pharmacy — 205 Three Rivers Dr., Kelso.

• Cowlitz Family Health Center — 600 Broadway, Longview.

• Walgreen’s Pharmacy — 2939 Ocean Beach Highway, Longview.

• Fred Meyer Longview — 3184 Ocean Beach Highway, Longview: Pharmacy

According to the state Department of Health, one of the top goals in Washington’s opioid response plan is to increase naloxone distribution in affected areas as local policies permit.

DOH said naloxone has helped Washington make notable progress in its battle against opioid addiction. Highlights include:

• In 2016, 690 overdoses were reversed using naloxone. (It’s likely that many more overdoses were reversed and not reported.)

• Roughly 3,600 naloxone kits were distributed by 14 syringe service programs in Washington.

• The number of people who participate in syringe service programs and who reported having a naloxone kit in the last three months has more than doubled, from 22 percent in 2015 to slightly more than 50 percent in 2017.

• At least 1,600 kits of naloxone were distributed through more than 100 pharmacies, including all Walgreen’s, Safeway and Albertsons stores.

It is important to know the symptoms of opioid overdose, and how to use naloxone, DOH said.

The department also noted that Washington has a “good samaritan law” to protect people who intervene in an overdose.

For information on prevention and treatment, and to learn how Washington is using the “hub and spoke” model to combat the opioid epidemic, visit: http://bit.ly/2uXrbo0.

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