As part of a recently-launched statewide program to reach those most at risk, MiraVista Behavioral Health Center is able to make available for free and without a prescription the life-saving medication naloxone that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose in minutes.
The medication, which is best known as an easy-to-administer nasal spray under the brand name Narcan, is available at the reception desk in the hospital’s main lobby. It is recommended for anyone who is at increased risk for an opioid overdose or knows someone at risk, and has been available without a prescription from retail pharmacies in the state but with costs paid out of pocket if not covered by insurance.
“Our front office staff have been trained to both use Narcan and educate those who request it on how to administer it,” said Kimberley Lee, Chief of Creative Strategy and Development at MiraVista that offers a range of substance use recovery services. “It is our hope that this free distribution without any barriers will encourage individuals to come in and obtain a box of Narcan with two nasal sprays to have for themselves or to administer to someone they know who is at risk for an opioid overdose. Having it available to quickly use in the event of an opioid overdose can be a matter of life and death.”
MiraVista also has magnets in English and Spanish available to anyone that concisely reviews how to administer Narcan, symptoms to look for, when a second dose might be needed and other rescue steps.
Naloxone has been credited with saving thousands of lives and helping to plateau the rise in drug overdose deaths that last year in the U.S. claimed some 110,000 lives. Education around it seeks to promote understanding of addiction as not a moral failing as sometimes is perceived, but a disease that can be fatal without intervention and treatment.
MiraVista met state regulations to become an affiliate of the Community Naloxone Purchasing Program (CNPP), recently created by the state with money it received from a national settlement involving lawsuits against wholesalers and manufacturers of opioids.
CNPP allows affiliates to bulk purchase Narcan at partial or full subsidy – similar to access that already exists for entities that distribute it to first responders – from the State Office of Pharmacy and to dispense it to individuals for free for their personal use. Affiliates are required to provide training in how to administer the nasal spray and education around harm reduction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one report has shown that 80% of overdose deaths have occurred in the home and that 40% of overdose deaths occurred with someone else present.
Research suggests wider distribution of the medication is needed in many states and estimates that greater distribution of the nasal spray through community-based programs that reach both those at risk and potential bystanders to an opioid overdose, the more likely it will be used and the largest number of lives saved.
A spray into one nostril quickly reverses an opioid overdose by blocking receptors that opioids bind to in the brain. A second dose can be given in the other nostril if a person does not wake up from overdosing within 2 or 3 minutes of the first dose.
MiraVista has a continuum of outpatient substance use recovery services that includes Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid use disorder for which there is same-day admission and in which free Narcan is distributed as well and an intensive outpatient program for those with a substance use diagnosis and that includes a structured curriculum and supportive therapies.
Expansion of Massachusetts law in 2018 to help lower the epidemic rise in overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers, heroin and fentanyl requires pharmacies licensed by the state to keep an adequate supply of naloxone available and allows them through a standing prescription order from the state to dispense it to anyone at increased risk for opioid overdose or a potential bystander with or without a prescription. Most insurers covered the cost.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the sale of Narcan without a prescription to help increase access to naloxone across the country but such over-the-counter availability has raised concerns over who will be able to afford the drug as a two-dose package is said to cost $150.
For information on obtaining no-cost Narcan at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center, call the hospital’s main number, (413) 701-2600.