PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Health Department is increasing access to a life-saving opioid overdose treatment through a free, 24-hour program.
Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole announced the "Narcan Near Me" program Thursday at Blackwell Library in West Philadelphia.
"Since 2017, Philadelphia has been fighting rising overdose deaths due to the spread of fentanyl in the heroin being sold in the city," Bettigole said in a statement. "West Philly is one of the places that has been hardest hit by the fact that fentanyl can potentially be in any drug. We need to take action today. We need to make sure that people here in West Philly have free, easy access to Narcan today. That's why we're here today: because we found a new and innovative way to start to get Narcan into West Philly."
The program will place free Narcan dispensing machines called towers in parts of the city.
Each tower acts as a locker, containing 22 overdose prevention kits which can be accessed by tapping the touch screen on the front of the device.
In the case of an emergency, the kiosk can connect directly to 911.
Each kit contains two doses of Narcan, gloves, face shields, and a visual aid on how to administer the medication.
The idea is with the press of a button, the vending machine will open and provide quick, easy access to Narcan.
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"We have lost too many Philadelphians to the overdose crisis," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "That's why we are trying new and novel ideas to help save lives. The Narcan Near Me Towers from Dispension, Inc. are exactly the type of bold response that we need. With these Towers, we can ensure that life-saving naloxone is available 24 hours a day in areas that need it."
The Department of Public Health reports, in 2020, Philadelphia recorded 1,214 overdose deaths. Overdose deaths in Black, non-Hispanic Philadelphians rose by nearly 30%, Hispanic Philadelphians by 1.1%, while white Philadelphians experienced a nearly 10% drop in overdose deaths compared to 2019.
The program will start with one machine outside the library and will add another at 60th and Market streets.
"Within the Library system, there have been over 54 reported incidents concerning overdoses," Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director Kelly Richards said. "Free Library staff members account for 41% of the times Narcan was administered. The administration of Narcan has helped many of our community members by reversing the effects of an opioid-related overdose. Having a Narcan Near Me tower outside our library is a special opportunity to provide no-cost Narcan to those experiencing overdoses and help save lives."
Naloxone, brand name Narcan, is an opioid antagonist which can block a person's opioid receptors and stop an overdose. It is non-addictive and cannot be used to get high.
In 2020, the city says more than 60,000 doses of naloxone were given to community organizations, first responders, and criminal justice organizations. More than 21,000 doses were purchased at pharmacies by Medicaid beneficiaries in Philadelphia.
More Information: https://www.phillynaloxone.org