Local hospitals to begin handing out heroin overdose kits - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Local hospitals to begin handing out heroin overdose kits

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Local hospitals will soon be giving heroin addicts kits to save their own lives.

The kits include two doses of Narcan, which is otherwise known as naloxone. You simply inject the person experiencing the overdose and it immediately reverses the effect of that heroin overdose on the person's nervous system. It's the same drug administered by first responders, but the window of opportunity is very small. It must be given in the first few minutes of an overdose.

The hope is that, if an addict is in trouble, whoever they are with – be they a family member or another user themselves – will be able to step in and inject the shot and save their lives.

Overdose patients who come to University Hospital will be getting the kits when they leave.

Kentucky's epidemic with heroin is well-documented. Overdose deaths in the state have surged over the last three years, with roughly 230 deaths a year blamed on the overdoses. The legislature is still battling over a heroin bill to create more treatment programs, stiffer penalties for dealers and better options for addicts.

Ryan Vowell was an example of one such addict who was desperate for a fix, breaking laws to get it and struggling to stay clean.

"There is no other feeling like it in the world," Vowell told us in Feb. 2013.

He died days after our interview.

So while lawmakers are figuring out the legislation, the overdose reversal kits are going to be rolling out to the three hospitals treating the most heroin overdose patients: University Hospital, the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, and St. Elizabeth Hospital in northern Kentucky.

"The reason people die from heroin overdose is they stop breathing," said Dr. Tim Price, an ER Physician at University Hospital. "Hopefully it will save lives."

"I've had a lot of people come up to me and say, 'Why give them overdose kits? You're just enabling them,'" said Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. "My response is, 'It's awfully tough to enable someone when they're dead.' So this is about saving lives. And the person that is most likely to overdose is someone who has overdosed previously."

And to state legislators, Conway says, "Pass a heroin bill. We need it."

"We're going to help people get and stay clean and sober," added Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear, 

2000 of the kits will be given out among the three hospitals. The $105,000 funding the pilot program comes from Kentucky's Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory Committee.

Governor Steve Beshear created SATAC by executive order to oversee the KY Kids Recovery grant program and distribution of $32 million in settlement funds that the state secured from two pharmaceutical companies.

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