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New Program Aims to Destigmatize Addiction by Making Naloxone More Available

NaloBoxes are being installed throughout the community to aid people in helping those who are overdosing from opiods. Each NaloxBox contains two doses of Naloxone and instructions on how to administer the drug.

A new effort to battle the increasing number of opioid overdoses in Cuyahoga County aims to save lives. But it has another objective as well.

MetroHealth and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services—or ADAMHS--Board of Cuyahoga County are partnering to install 100 NaloxBoxes throughout the community. These boxes contain two doses of Naloxone and instructions on how to administer the life-saving drug.

Beth Zietlow-DeJesus with the ADAMHS board hopes the availability of Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, will help destigmatize addiction and educate the community on the opioid epidemic.

“Much like you would see an AED [automated external defibrillator] available to help somebody who is having a heart attack, these boxes would be in buildings where you would be able to open them, have immediate access to Narcan and begin to help somebody while you are waiting for emergency services to arrive,” Zietlow-DeJesus said.

MetroHealth’s Director of Opioid Safety Dr. Joan Papp hopes one day seeing a NaloxBox will be just as normal as seeing an AED.

Dr. Papp on educating the community about overdoses

“Putting these boxes in public spaces is definitely gonna make it more visual for people that this is a real problem and that is just as important and devastating as cardiac arrest," she said.

Four NaloxBoxes have been installed in Cuyahoga County with more to come in places such as hunger centers, homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers. Papp says she’s also heard interest from private businesses for installing a NaloxBox in their buildings.

This program is launched after a year of increased overdose deaths that Zietlow-DeJesus says can be partly contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorney General Dave Yost's Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education found that more Ohioans died of an opioid overdose during a three month period of 2020 than any other time during the epidemic. During the second quarter of 2020, the death rate from opioid overdose reached the highest rate in 10 years, at 11.01 per 100,000 population. The death rate in Cuyahoga County was 8.83 per 100,000 population.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.