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One organization's gift could save lives this holiday season

Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-28 05:47:26-05

Drew Engelhart said he wouldn’t be alive to enjoy the upcoming holidays if it weren’t for the drug naloxone.

“When you’re in addiction, you’re lost,” Engelhart said. “You have to have something — almost like a beacon of hope. Because when you’re an addict, you’re hopeless.”

The Anderson Township man said the number of times he’s been saved by naloxone is “countless.”

Naloxone can block or reverse the effects of opioids in someone who overdoses. Engelhart calls the drug a lifesaver for himself and others affected by the opioid epidemic.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve personally been brought back,” he said.

The holidays can be especially difficult for people who have lost friends and family to addiction. That’s why one non-profit, Harm Reduction Ohio, is helping to make naloxone available to Ohio families.

Shae Dalrymple, communications specialist for Harm Reduction Ohio, said the organization received a donation of several hundred Evzio auto-injector kits.

During the holiday season, the group is making those kits available to people who benefit most from having naloxone at home or nearby: people who use drugs, or family members and friends who have regular contact with people who use drugs.

“We don’t think anybody should be dying from substance abuse when we have this available for them,” Dalrymple said. “There’s no negative to naloxone.”

Because of the risk of drugs, like cocaine or meth, being laced with opioids, Harm Reduction Ohio encourages anyone who uses these or similar drugs to carry naloxone.

Newtown Chief of Police Tom Synan, also of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, said officers and firefighters respond to as many as 70 overdoses in the Tri-State per week, and about five people die per week.

“You don’t have long-term health conditions. You have death, and it’s immediate,” Synan said. “So that’s the only difference and that’s why we need to treat it more of an emergency and we need Narcan.”

(Narcan is another brand name of naloxone.)

The Evzio auto-injectors deliver a naloxone dose equivalent to the dose delivered by Narcan, according to Harm Reduction Ohio. The device comes with voice instructions to guide the user on how to administer the overdose-reversing drug with little or no training.

(A training video is available. Click here to watch.)

The kits can sometimes cost up to $4,000 for a two-dose kit.

“I know the injectables were extremely expensive,” Synan said. “So to be able to put that in the street for free – it’s significant and it will save lives.”

“Opioid overdose deaths are particularly prevalent in Ohio,” Dalrymple said. “They surpass traffic accidents for causes of death. We think that’s ridiculous and can be helped.”

Ohio residents who would like to request a free auto-injector from Harm Reduction Ohio should click here to fill out an enrollment form.

After WCPO's story aired Tuesday night, Darymple said the stock of Evzio auto-injectors, intramuscular injectors and nasal spray were depleted. The organization is working on restocking the supply.

"We got a massive response overnight, and are now out of stock of the Evzio auto-injectors. So the Thanksgiving offer is closed," Darymple said Wednesday.

Hamilton County Public Health offers a similar program through the Narcan Distribution Collaborative (NDC). Patients can get naloxone at no charge two days a week at the health clinic at 184 East McMillan St. in Cincinnati.

For information on Narcan distribution in Hamilton County, contact the NDC staff at 513-946-7676 or narcan@hamilton-co.org.