Douglas County Commission delays approving plan for opioid overdose reversal drug distribution

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Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday held off on approving a plan for DCCCA to distribute a lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug throughout the community.

The Lawrence-based nonprofit wants to place nasal naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, in strategic locations throughout the community.

The FDA-approved, over-the-counter treatment blocks the effects of opiates on the brain and restores breathing. It’s effective against all opiates — heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, and similar prescription and street drugs — although some overdoses may take multiple naloxone doses to reverse. There is also an injectable version of naloxone.

Commissioners voiced general support for the plan, but there was some confusion about what specifically the commission was considering funding, and what it would cost. Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said she thought county staff believed the numbers in DCCCA’s proposal were firmer than they actually were, and she suggested DCCCA revise the proposal and bring it back at a future meeting.

Under the plan in the agenda materials, DCCCA would place ONEbox devices, which contain a nasal naloxone kit and a brief training video, in 10 to 15 locations, including the Baldwin City, Eudora and Lawrence public libraries, and throughout downtown Lawrence, according to the memo. The devices come from the Drug Intervention Institute, a nonprofit based in West Virginia. DCCCA would also place vending machines that contain between 54 and 150 doses of Narcan.

Narcan (naloxone) nasal spray

The estimated price tag for that was $47,450, and the money would come from opioid settlement funds that Plinsky said the county will continue to receive for “several years.” But DCCCA staff members said the specific numbers could change, depending on fluctuations in pricing and what the commission directed them to do.

Chrissy Mayer, DCCCA’s chief community based services officer, told commissioners that the need for naloxone kits this year was already outpacing her earlier estimates. She said DCCCA is on track to distribute about 2,000 kits to Douglas County alone this year — about 500 more than she’d expected.

She said she thinks part of DCCCA’s goal is to normalize that everyone has naloxone.

“Just because I get naloxone doesn’t mean I’m misusing substances,” Mayer said. “It means I want to be prepared in the event of an opioid overdose emergency. We should be equipping everyone with naloxone. … You don’t know when you’re going to encounter someone experiencing an overdose, and it’s such an easy thing to do to save someone.”

Mayer said there was an option for targeted distribution in “hotspots,” where DCCCA staff could set up times to be in certain places to provide kits to people who come by.

“We don’t know what response will be, how people will come out to get those but again, it’s just … to be responsive to meeting people where they’re at,” Mayer said.

She also said they could target people leaving the jail, shelters or treatment programs. Distributing naloxone that way could cut costs, she said.


“Targeted distribution programs are really focused on training and equipping individuals who are likely to encounter someone experiencing or witnessing an overdose with naloxone kits so that they can save a life in that regard,” Mayer said.

Commission Chair Patrick Kelly said he had concerns about ONEboxes downtown perhaps being “accessed inappropriately.”

“Maybe they won’t be, I don’t really know, but … I think that’s loaded with assumptions that I probably shouldn’t have and want those people who are working in those spaces to make the best decisions on it,” he said.

Commissioner Shannon Reid said she was excited about the idea of vending machines, and the normalization that could come from that. She said she hoped to identify a place to provide naloxone that would make it available to anyone 24/7, with no time barriers or physical barriers.

The commissioners said they wanted to see some targeted distribution incorporated into DCCCA’s plan as well. The plan will likely come back to the commission for approval in the next couple of weeks.

Kansas residents and organizations can request a free Narcan kit from DCCCA and learn about how it works at this link.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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