Video: Gov. Tom Wolf learns how to administer the overdose-reversal drug naloxone

By: - May 22, 2019 4:56 pm

Gov. Tom Wolf learns to administer naloxone in the Capitol on May 22, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Elvis Rosado has been a volunteer for Prevention Point in Philadelphia since the harm reduction organization formed in the early 1990s to distribute clean syringes to people who inject drugs.

For the past five he’s been a full-time staff member, working as the education and community outreach coordinator, and teaching people how to administer the life-saving, overdose-reversal medication naloxone.

There’s a “huge need” for his work, he said. “As of 2016, we were losing 116 people each day in this country. As of January of this year, we’re over 130 people who die on a daily basis from opioids and fentanyl.”

Rosado brought his expertise to the Capitol on Wednesday, where he trained Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, and other state officials, and equipped them with overdose rescue kits.

Inside the small blue pouches are gloves, a face shield for rescue breathing, paper instructions, and one dose of Narcan (a brand name for naloxone) Nasal Spray.

Wolf demonstrated how simple it is to administer naloxone through a person’s (or, on Wednesday, a dummy’s) nostril. But there’s still a stigma attached to carrying the medication, the governor said.

“Opioid-use disorder is a disease,” Wolf said. “It is not a moral failing. … We cannot get someone treatment if they’re not alive.”

When naloxone is administered in Pennsylvania, there’s an 85 percent survival rate, Wolf said. He’s hoping to see that number rise.

In December, Wolf’s administration distributed thousands of doses of naloxone for free. A spokesperson for the governor said another giveaway is possible for June.

There’s a standing order for naloxone in Pennsylvania, meaning it can be obtained from a pharmacy without a prescription.

Wednesday’s training was sponsored by AmeriHealth Caritas, a Medicaid managed care organization, that is rolling out naloxone training for its 6,100 employees nationwide.

Rosado, who himself is in recovery, said it’s become easier to train laypeople, now that the nasal spray is commonplace.

“I also think that the fact that repeatedly the numbers [of overdoses] have continually gone up, people realize it’s better to do something than do nothing,” he said.

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.