Free Medicine to Reverse Opioid Overdose

Photo of Narcan Nasal Spray

David Ingalls, pharmacist at Miller Drug, holds one of the Narcan nasal sprays that would be included in the survival kit.

People in the Bangor area will have greater access to the life-saving medication Narcan starting February 1, after a Circle of Caring fundraising effort brought in more than $17,000. Narcan is administered by those who suspect a friend or loved one has overdosed on an opioid.

Four members of the Community Health Leadership Board (CHLB), Eastern Maine Medical Center, St. Joseph Healthcare, Acadia Hospital, and Penobscot Community Health Care will be providing free Narcan to those in need who don’t have the ability to pay. The organizations’ primary care offices, along with the emergency departments of EMMC and St. Joe’s, will be prescribing the nasal spray, which is used to reverse an overdose. State law mandates that the medication be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Acadia Hospital will distribute its allocated doses of Narcan to patients within Acadia’s adult outpatient services who lack ability to pay and need access to Narcan for harm reduction.

The Narcan will come as part of a survival kit with educational resources, including information about how to administer the Narcan and available crisis services, shelters, recovery support groups, and public transportation. It is straightforward to use and does not cause harm if the person showing signs of trouble has not actually overdosed. There are currently about 500 survival kits available.

The availability of the life-saving kits is possible because of the work and goodwill of the Bangor area.

St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation helped start the social media campaign Circle of Caring in May 2016. Working with the CHLB, people around the region were encouraged to post photos on Facebook of circles – to show the community uniting around those experiencing addiction – and to donate to www.bangorchlb.org.
Since then, the effort has brought in $17,660, including a significant donation from United Way of Eastern Maine.

The CHLB, a group of healthcare, social services and public health organization leaders, voted to put the money toward Narcan because it is an immediate way to save a life. The group is pursuing a variety of other initiatives to support people with substance use disorders, including expanding access to treatment, revising prescriber protocols, starting up a detoxification center, and continuing educational efforts to reduce stigma.

“These survival kits are about the immediate need to save lives. The CHLB will also continue to pursue the long-term work needed to build up the larger system that will support people with substance use disorders,” said Patty Hamilton, director of Bangor Public Health and Community Services.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate use disorder, talk to your family doctor or a medical professional at St. Joe’s, EMMC, or PCHC to ask about the available Narcan. There is a limited supply, and preference will be given to those either without insurance or in need of assistance with the cost of the medication.

The Community Health Leadership Board is continuing the fundraising effort. To donate, please visit www.bangorchlb.org. Fifty dollars will save a life.