Like many communities across the United States, areas like Wichita Falls and Wichita County, Texas are seeing rising rates of opioid abuse. And as the death toll from opioid overdose continues to mount, the national pharmacy chain, Walgreens, has partnered with state officials to offer a solution in locations throughout the state.
Recently, Texas passed Senate Bill 1462 that allows doctors to write standing orders for the drug Naloxone. Also known as Narcan, this drug is capable of saving the lives of men and women who have fallen victim to an opioid overdose, but was previously only available with a prescription. When a person ingests toxic levels of an opioid, his or her heart rate and breathing can slow to a fatal pace. Naloxone works by stopping this process for approximately 60 or 90 minutes, allowing the person time to access care that could save his or her life.
Now, for those that can afford the drug, anyone in the state of Texas and at other participating Walgreens throughout the United States, can keep Naloxone on hand. And in light of recently released data showing a sharp rise in maternal mortality rates related to opioid abuse in Texas, this improved access could not be more timely.
Other Roadblocks to Access
The Walgreens program works in a preventative fashion, allowing individuals who abuse opioids to keep Naloxone on hand, and, in addition, family and friends of an opioid-dependent person can also familiarize themselves with the substance. Often, it is those closest to a person who learn that an individual has overdosed first, sometimes well before first responders arrive. Having immediate access to Naloxone can certainly prove critical in these scenarios.
But to broaden access to Naloxone even further, Texas public health officials recently attempted to apply for a federal grant to secure approximately $1 million in funding from the Obama administration to purchase Naloxone for emergency response personnel throughout the state. The team responsible for writing the grant was disappointed to find, however, that state officials never submitted the paperwork by the required deadline, thus removing Texas from consideration for the federal monies. Critics cite political pressure and bias against drug addicted individuals as reasons for the missed deadline; however, documents have yet to be released to the public that could shed light on what occurred during the grant application process.
So while organizations like Walgreens are helping many Texans access Naloxone, more work is yet to be done in addressing the opioid crisis nationwide. Preventative education is, of course, critical in lowering rates of opioid abuse, but more support is also needed to help individuals who have already become dependent upon these substances.
Treatment centers throughout Wichita County and the entire state of Texas will continue to be tasked with providing quality treatment for individuals who have developed an opioid used disorder, and helping them reclaim their lives.