To combat a growing public health threat, friends and family of high-risk opioid drug users in San Luis Obispo County will soon get new access to a life-saving medication.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $27,500 grant by the state Department of Public Health that will pay for 686 doses of Narcan nasal spray to be distributed through the SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange And Overdose Prevention Program.
The countywide Opioid Safety Coalition is working to increase the availability of the drug, known generically as naloxone. The medicine almost immediately reverses opiate overdose when injected or sprayed into the nostril and was made available to people other than medical professionals under state legislation passed in 2014 and 2016.
Two years ago, there were 36 opioid-related deaths in San Luis Obispo County, according to preliminary data. The coalition’s goal is to reduce that number by at least 30 percent by 2019. Last year, there were 37 known opioid-related deaths, according to county public health officials.
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The plan is to put the medicine into the hands of friends, family and opioid abusers themselves to increase the chances of reversing an overdose in the precious moments before emergency services arrive. It’s a strategy recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.
Deaths from the highly addictive drugs – such as codeine, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone and heroin – have been on the rise and jumped again nationwide last year. The medicine is one tool to stop a concerning trend that is growing both locally and nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Opioid-related deaths in San Luis Obispo County more than tripled between 2006 and 2015. And emergency room visits related to opioid use followed a similar trend. There were 219 visits to the emergency room due to opioid use in 2006, and 640 in 2014, according to data collected by the Opioid Safety Coalition.
Public health experts say an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers used to treat moderate to severe pain can be linked to the jump in deaths from drug overdoses experienced in nearly every county in the United States since 2007.
The problem stretches across generations and is countywide, they say. Opioids have taken the lives of San Luis Obispo County residents ranging from teenagers to seniors.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization that would distribute the drug. In addition, an early version incorrectly described the number of known opioid-related deaths in 2015.
How to get naxolone
Naloxone is available now at no or low cost in San Luis Obispo County, including confidential or anonymous settings. It is free with Medi-Cal and is covered fully or in part by most insurance.
With a prescription
▪ Your regular healthcare provider can write a prescription for naloxone. The prescription can be filled at any CVS or Rite Aid pharmacy in SLO County.
▪ County of San Luis Obispo Drug and Alcohol Services prescribes naloxone and provides education sessions on when and how to use it. Call 805-781-4756 to learn more.
Without a prescription
▪ SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange provides naloxone without a prescription, at no cost and in a confidential setting. Call 805-458-0123 to learn more, or stop by Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 2191 Johnson Ave.
▪ Certain CVS stores provide Naloxone from the pharmacist without a prescription, including 11990 Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo, 1435 E. Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande, 610 W Tefft St. in Nipomo and 187 Niblick Road in Paso Robles.