Serving Whitman County since 1877

New state policy on overdose-reversal drug goes into affect

On Aug. 28, Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy signed a statewide standing order for naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

The order works like a prescription and allows any person or organization in the state to get naloxone from a pharmacy.

An overdose of opioid drugs like prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl can cause a person’s breathing to slow or stop. Naloxone can be given as an injection or a nasal spray to someone experiencing an overdose. It works by temporarily blocking the effects of opioid drugs.

In 2018, 710 Washington residents died of an opioid overdose.

Naloxone does not have serious side effects if accidentally given to someone who is not experiencing an opioid overdose.

“I don’t think it’ll increase the availability that much,” said Troy Henderson, county health department director. “It was already widely available. It should simplify the process.”

The Whitman County Health Department does not carry it.

“We have discussed it in the last year and as of yet we’ve decided not to do so,” said Henderson, pointing out they would have it to administer in an emergency, and the likelihood of someone coming in to the health department for this is small.

What would he say, then if someone asked about it?

“I’d say, go to Tick’s (Tick Klock Pharmacy), that’s what they do,” he said. “This is basically giving a blanket prescription across the state.”

Naloxone may be used on a person experiencing overdose when responders are not sure what kind of drugs may have been ingested.

Police and fire departments have long carried naxolone.

The Washington Department of Health encourages anyone who is at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose to carry naloxone. People who want to get naloxone can use the standing order at any pharmacy in the state without a prescription from a health care provider.

Most commercial health insurance plans cover at least one form of naloxone, but coverage and costs vary. Apple Health (Medicaid) clients can get naloxone at no cost.

The standing order will also make it easier for organizations working with people who may need naloxone to get and distribute the medication. Organizations interested in getting naloxone under the standing order need to notify the department. The department will keep a list of organizations and notify them if there are changes to the order.

Since February 2019, the department has also managed an Overdose Education & Naloxone Distribution Program to distribute naloxone kits to programs statewide for distribution to their communities. Within the first year of the program, the department expects to deliver 11,000 naloxone kits. This work is funded in part by a federal opioid grant managed by the Washington State Health Care Authority.

All of these efforts are part of the state’s comprehensive opioid response, which is focused on preventing opioid misuse, identifying and treating opioid use disorder, preventing deaths from overdose and using data to monitor and support these efforts.

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