More than 54,000 free opioid overdose reversal kits coming to Washington

Native drug and alcohol counselor and former NFL player Levi Horn holds up naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, as part of a tribal opioid use prevention campaign by the Washington State Health Care Authority. (For Our Lives/Health Care Authority)

The first of more than 54,000 naloxone kits have begun arriving in Washington, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.

The kits will be available to the public at no cost through the Department of Health’s statewide mail-order naloxone program, managed by the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance.

Teva Pharmaceuticals is delivering the opioid overdose reversal kits in quarterly shipments over the next two years as part of a December 2022 resolution to a lawsuit by the state over the company’s role in fueling the opioid epidemic. Washington has won $1.29 billion so far through lawsuits targeting corporations related to the opioid epidemic.

“Our lawsuits against opioids manufacturers are providing resources to combat the fentanyl and opioid crisis to every part of the state,” Ferguson said. “These kits will make immediate impacts in that fight.”

Overdose death rates have skyrocketed in recent years, driven primarily by fentanyl. There were 2,001 opioid overdose deaths in 2022 in Washington, with 1,803 of those involving fentanyl, according to state Department of Health data.

Preliminary federal data released Wednesday showed that while overdose deaths fell for the first time in five years nationwide, Washington was among the states where they increased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate that fatal drug overdoses in Washington increased by around 27% in 2023 compared to 2022.

Each naloxone kit, also known by the brand name Narcan, contains two dosages in nasal spray form that can be easily administered without medical training. On May 13, 6,765 of the 54,120 kits arrived.

State officials, advocates and experts have encouraged the public to carry naloxone, as research shows it is often administered by friends. It can quickly reverse a life-threatening overdose — sometimes in just a few minutes.

You can find written and video instructions on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose — including how to administer naloxone — on the Department of Health’s website.

— By Grace Deng, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and X.

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