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.