Delaware expands access to Naloxone

 Delaware Gov. John Carney signs SB 48 allowing pharmacies to dispense the heroin overdose reversing drug Naloxone without a prescription. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Delaware Gov. John Carney signs SB 48 allowing pharmacies to dispense the heroin overdose reversing drug Naloxone without a prescription. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

As part of the ongoing fight against the heroin epidemic, Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a measure allowing residents to access the overdose reversing drug Naloxone without a prescription.

With more than 118 overdose deaths so far this year, Delaware took another step in the fight against addiction Thursday afternoon as Carney signed SB 48 inside a CVS store in Dover. The bill will allow drug users and their friends and family to purchase Naloxone at their local drug store, with the hopes that more Naloxone in the community will mean fewer deaths.

The 118 OD death toll could be even higher were it not for the use of Naloxone by law enforcement, paramedics and others. So far this year, Naloxone has been administered in Delaware nearly 900 times.

In New Castle County, there have been more than 30 overdose deaths, but more than 100 victims have been rescued by Naloxone, according to county police Chief Col. Vaughn Bond. “Any time where you can deploy more resources, and put those resources in the hands of pharmacies, and in the hands of families, hopefully we can drive down those numbers,” Bond said.

The legislation was championed by aTAcK addiction director David Humes. Humes’ son Greg died five years ago from an accidental heroin overdose following 17 months of sobriety. The Humes family would have celebrated Greg’s 30th birthday this weekend. “Things might have been very different for my family had bills such as these been in effect,” Humes said. “First save the life. Where there is life, there is hope.”

Delaware’s heroin deaths have soared in recent years. In 2016, there were 308 OD deaths, compared to 228 in 2015. Through the first half of 2017, there have been 121 suspected overdose deaths. In March, there were four separate overdose deaths in just five hours in New Castle County.

For several years, police departments throughout the state have stocked Naloxone in cars and trained officers on how to administer it. The Ocean View Police were the first in the state to start implement its use. “Naloxone is not a cure,” said Ocean View Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin. “It does buy crucial time. Time to seek medical treatment and prevent death, and, God-willing, time to beat the addiction.”

Advocates also hope that making Naloxone readily available in stores will spark a conversation between users and their friends and families. “If it’s a chance to just say, ‘I am using heroin, I am using substances, please make sure you are having Naloxone in our house, in the car, at work, at a restaurant.'” said Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker. “Let’s make sure more people are armed with how to use it.”

Under SB 48, Naloxone can be purchased by anyone who goes through a brief lesson on how to use it and signs an acknowledgement form at the pharmacy. The bill also protects pharmacies from any liability due to injury or death from administering the drug.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.