A nonprofit agency is using a state grant to distribute an overdose reversal drug to locations in high-risk counties, including St. Louis, Carlton and Itasca.
“These are among the counties that have been hardest-hit statistically,” said Allie Carey, program director for the Steve Rummler Hope Network.
Named for a man who died of a drug overdose in 2011, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based nonprofit qualified for a $150,000 federal grant through the state Department of Human Services to distribute naloxone in 29 counties.
Administered to an individual who has overdosed with opioids, naloxone can quickly reverse the effects of the opioid and save the user’s life, although it may leave him or her in withdrawal.
“People call it 'the Lazarus drug,'” said Carey, referring to the biblical figure whom Jesus raised from the dead. “It brings you back.”
Naloxone is distributed in the Duluth area, through the Rural AIDS Action Network and other agencies. It’s also carried by Duluth police and other first responders. But the Steve Rummler HOPE Network wants to expand the reach of naloxone, particularly to more remote areas, Carey said.
“It’s just tricky because Minnesota is a huge state and there’s just a lot of ground to cover,” she said. “The need is everywhere, and getting people keyed in isn’t always easy.”
So far in St. Louis County, only Duluth’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, 1402 E. Superior St., has signed on as a distribution point. Two places in Carlton County have expressed interest, but nothing has been heard from Itasca County, Carey said.
CADT treats people who are struggling with addiction and is a natural place to distribute naloxone, Carey said. But they hope also to distribute naloxone via less likely locations, such as coffeehouses.
Jadrianne LaTulip, alcohol and drug counselor for CADT, said the agency has had naloxone kits available in the past, but Steve Rummler was able to make a larger supply apply available and more readily provide additional kits when supplies are low. CADT distributes about 100 kits a year, she said.
Although CADT doesn’t distribute kits outside its doors, people who come to the agency from long distances are provided with naloxone, LaTulip said.
Each kit comes with three vials of naloxone, she said. If fentanyl is the cause of the overdose, it may require all three vials to revive the victim.
The naloxone is distributed at no charge, along with training in how to use it. It requires an intramuscular injection. Distributing the form of the drug that is inhaled would be cost-prohibitive, Carey said.
Naloxone saves lives, is safe and is affordable, Carey said. She’s frustrated that it’s not more widely available.
“It’s a battle getting it commonly stocked in ambulances and first-responder vehicles,” she said. “That should be a no-brainer. The fact that this isn’t a guarantee boggles the mind.”
LaTulip and her colleague Erin Ashcroft said they hear many stories of lives being saved by naloxone — and lost because of the lack of it. Ashcroft, who until recently worked for the Northeast Regional Corrections Center, said she knew of four or five incidents last year of individuals overdosing shortly after being released. Now, she said, the corrections center provides naloxone to individuals when they’re discharged.
“We have multiple people who have used their kit and come back the next day and said, ‘Hey, I used my kit. I need another one,’” LaTulip said. “They use them all over the place — at McDonald’s, at AA meetings. I’ve heard all sorts of stories.”
To learn more
Any interested organization or business can contact the Steve Rummler Hope Network at 952-943-3937 or overdoseprevention@rummlerHOPE.org.