Narcan overdose reversal kits installed in Northampton buildings

  • A NaloxBox at Forbes Library in Northampton.  STAFF PHOTO/GRETA JOCHEM

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2019 1:25:52 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On the wall at Forbes Library next to shelves full of fiction books hangs a small box labeled “Opioid Rescue Kit.” It contains three doses of Narcan nasal spray, a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

As of Monday, the library is one of several municipal buildings the are equipped with the “NaloxBox,” a kit that contains Narcan, generically known as naloxone, a breathing mask and medical gloves.

In the first six months 0f 2019, 11 people died of an opioid overdose in the city, according to Merridith O’Leary, city public health director. Two overdoses have occurred in public places like the City Hall bathrooms, though O’Leary wasn’t sure if they were fatal or not.

O’Leary and other public health workers and advocates in the city are hoping that the new NaloxBoxes can prevent future deaths.

“It’s a public health response to this epidemic, what we’re doing. It’s also the humane response to it, too,” O’Leary said. “We are a community that cares.”

NaloxBoxes have been installed in a number of locations including City Hall, Memorial Hall, Forbes Library, Lilly Library, the James House and the Northampton Police Department. The boxes are funded by a grant acquired by the city two years ago from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the first two years of the grant, city health officials and their partners around the county distributed Narcan across Hampshire County to agencies and departments like the police and trained people on how to use it.

Next, city health officials looked to NaloxBox, which was created by Dr. Geoff Capraro, an associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Brown University, and Claudia Rebola, an associate professor of industrial design and associate dean at the University of Cincinnati. NaloxBoxes also are used in Rhode Island, Ohio, and other parts of Massachusetts.

There is no glass to break or lock on the NaloxBox. “Some people have questioned how easily accessible it is in terms of whether it will get stolen from the box,” Cherry Sullivan, coordinator of the Hampshire HOPE opioid prevention coalition, said in a statement. “My response to that concern is that it’s fine. At least it’s in the hands of someone who could use it.”

There are instructions with photo illustrations provided with the kit. “What’s really important,” O’Leary said, “if you’re unsure — you’re not sure if this is an overdose — the Narcan will do absolutely nothing.” It’s safe if accidentally given to someone not experiencing an overdose.

Already, many Northampton businesses have Narcan and their employees have been trained on how to use it, according to O’Leary, but she said they can get a NaloxBox through the grant funding.

“We’d be more than happy, while funds last, to provide (businesses) with NaloxBox,” she said. The box could hang in a business’s main lobby or eating area, she said. “It’s another protection.”

In the future, ​O’Leary envisions creating an interactive, digital map of all the places where Narcan is available in the city so that people can pull it up on a smartphone if they need to help someone.

“Every second counts when it comes to helping someone reverse an overdose from opiates,” she said.

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