Narcan, an antidote containing naloxone that revives people who have overdosed on opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers
Narcan is an antidote containing naloxone that revives people who have overdosed on opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers.

On Tuesday, June 14, the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness will distribute free naloxone kits and offer training sessions on how to administer the opioid overdose antidote, which are available to anyone with a loved one struggling with an addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers.

The training sessions will be conducted by the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition (KHRC) continuously from 1-3 p.m. on Tuesday at the health department’s 400 E. Gray St. headquarters, and no registration or advance notice is required. They also will offer the trainings at the same time and location on June 28, and the health department says there will be enough kits to distribute to everyone who needs one.

Legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly last year made naloxone — also known by its brand name Narcan — available for opioid addicts at pharmacies without a prescription, but Tuesday’s distribution and training is available to those with a family member or loved one struggling with addiction, as they would be able to reverse the overdose quickly before paramedics arrive and increase the chances of survival.

“We want to get the kits into the hands of people in crisis, who could overdose, or to those who are around someone at risk of overdosing,” said Arlene Rice, co-founder of KHRC.

The KHRC has distributed thousands of naloxone kits in the past year — with most of those in Louisville — which can counteract life-threatening depression of the respiratory system during an opioid overdose and allow the victim to breathe normally.

Heroin overdoses have dramatically increased in Louisville over the past year, and local Emergency Medical Services personnel have administered naloxone to 832 patients suspected of overdosing on opioids through the first five months of 2016 — nearly triple the number from that point last year and almost equaling the yearlong total of 2015.

The health department’s press release announcing this month’s training session encouraged agencies, businesses or organizations that would like to train staff in the use of naloxone to contact the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition at 581-9728 or their website.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]