This post has been updated to reflect the release of new scheduling and timing information by the Pa. Department of Health and statements by Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.
As part of the state’s ongoing effort to combat drug and opioid abuse, Pennsylvanians can pick up the anti-overdose drug naloxone for free at 87 locations across the state on Wednesday, Sept. 18 and Wednesday, Sept. 25.
The drug will “primarily” be made available at state health centers and county/municipal health departments from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., as supplies last, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said in a statement.
“Naloxone has one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system to save someone’s life,” state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. “It is impossible to get someone in to treatment who is dead. In 2018, more than 4,400 people died from a drug overdose. Every Pennsylvanian has a role to play as a potential first responder and can save a life by having naloxone on hand and using it if they come across someone who has overdosed.”
Levine added that “some locations are operating at different hours, so it’s important to visit the Department of Health’s website and view the map of locations to see more details. We will be updating the map throughout the day to let people know if naloxone is still available at the location they want to go to.”
Those who pick up the anti-overdose drug are being encouraged to use social media to share their motivations for carrying it. Participants should tag their posts #WhyICarryNaloxone.
A second distribution day will take place on Sept. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as supplies last, the Health Department said in its statement. Levine has also issued a standing order prescription to any Pennsylvanian to get naloxone at a pharmacy for anyone who may need it.
The drug is available to many with public and private insurance at pharmacies either for free or at a low cost, the Health Department said in its statement.
In a statement released by his office, Gov. Tom Wolf said it’s “imperative that we do all that we can to help our fellow Pennsylvanians during the ongoing opioid crisis.”
“We can all be first responders if we come across someone who is experiencing an overdose from heroin or opioids and so receiving and carrying naloxone is vital. That’s why I am encouraging all Pennsylvanians to find a location near them and to pick up a free naloxone kit on Sept. 18 or 25,” Wolf said in the statement.
While doctors are now writing fewer prescriptions, drug overdoses still claimed the lives of more than 4,400 Pennsylvanians in 2018, according to Drug Enforcement Agency data cited by the Wolf administration.
In January 2018, Wolf, a York County Democrat, signed a 90-day Opioid Disaster Declaration, renewing it as recently as September. In all, 17 state agencies are working as part of the state’s Opioid Command Center, focusing on prevention, rescue, and treatment.
The overdose drug, which falls under that rescue component, has saved more than 25,000 lives statewide, the administration said.
“When someone is revived from an overdose, we can help move them into treatment and recovery,” Wolf said in his statement. “Without naloxone, we wouldn’t be able to help so many people suffering from opioid use disorder. With it, we are making a difference.”