HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Life-saving Narcan is being donated to MiraVista Behavioral Health Center to help reduce opioid-related overdose deaths in Hampden County. According to a MiraVista news release, the opioid death rate in 2021 increased by 9 percent from 2020. In 2021, there was a total of 211 opioid-related overdose deaths.

2021’s amount of opioid deaths in some Western Massachusetts towns, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

  • Holyoke – 23
  • Springfield – 84
  • West Springfield – 15

An important chapter of the 2018 legislation that was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker expanded access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdose effects temporarily, a life-saving drug.

A statewide standing order allowed pharmacies to dispense the drug, whose brand names include Narcan, without a prescription at a time when the commonwealth was dealing with an opioid-overdose crisis. The drug is available under the brand name Narcan, but does not require a prescription for anyone at risk of experiencing an overdose or someone who can assist them. Previously, only properly-trained public safety responders could be dispensing naloxone kits.

As a result of the first pilot program to distribute naloxone during an overdose in 2007, the state has expanded access to the drug, which has saved thousands of lives. Naloxone nasal spray kits remain a key part of the state’s harm reduction program.

Delivery of 60 naloxone kits will be made to MiraVista Behavioral Health Center at 1233 Main Street, Holyoke at 10:30 AM on Thursday, September 22. To ensure patients and staff have access to the lifesaving properties of Narcan, Springfield Pharmacy is covering the cost of the kits, which represents a nearly $3,000 commitment.

“The standing order allows us to dispense naloxone with or without a prescription to any person that is at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose,” said Alex Wu, Springfield Pharmacy manager, and co-owner. “It also allows naloxone to be dispensed to family members, friends, or anyone that may be in the position to help an individual at risk of an overdose.”

Wu said as an opioid receptor antagonist, naloxone, when administered, “displaces opioids from these receptors and reverses their effects.”

“Naloxone has no potential for abuse because it is an antagonist and stops the body’s opioid receptors from being activated,” Wu said. “Since these receptors are not being activated, the euphoric effects that can be seen with opioid abuse are never achieved.”

Wu said that the rescue kits come “with two doses of naloxone that are administered nasally,” he said. “A single spray of one dose is instilled into one nostril which can be repeated after 2-3 minutes if there is no response or if the response is minimal,” Wu said.

“911 should still be called because often the duration of action of the opioid will be longer than that of naloxone,” he added. “The first dose of naloxone should be given, followed by an immediate phone call to 911,” Wu said. “Then if needed, the second dose of naloxone can be given.”

He says fentanyl, has increasingly mixed into street drugs due to its cheap cost and ongoing rise in overdose deaths. “Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is very potent,” Wu said. “Because of this, multiple doses of naloxone may be needed to counteract an overdose.”

Springfield Pharmacy “donated the costs associated with the 60 Naloxone Nasal kits in order to increase the accessibility of the medication to those that may be in need,“ he said. “Because of the nature of recovery and addiction, it is very difficult to anticipate relapse,” Wu said. “We should all do our part to help support the individual and make sure they have access to treatment.”