New Jersey is sending first responders more than 11,000 doses of Narcan amid a pandemic-fueled climb in opioid deaths.
“The opioid epidemic continues to take far too many of our friends and neighbors,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “We’ve previously made naloxone available at no cost to residents, police departments, libraries and homeless shelters, and making it available for free to EMS teams is a sensible next step. We are committed to making naloxone as readily available as possible to as many people as possible — to save as many lives as possible.”
Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, preventing deaths caused by heroin and other opiates.
In May, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration announced drug overdose deaths had risen 20% compared to the same period the previous year after 2019 saw a 3% drop in such deaths.
The rise, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at the time, could have been fueled by social isolation, rising unemployment and grief under what was then a strict statewide lockdown.
“New Jersey continues to battle the overdose epidemic which is being compounded by the current COVID-19 health emergency,” she said Thursday. “New Jersey EMS clinicians have been responding to an increase in overdoses in the state and we want to ensure they have tools they need to care for patients.”
Thursday’s announcement is one in a series of free Narcan distributions the state has undertaken. Previous efforts have seen residents, police departments and homeless shelters receive doses of the opioid antagonist, though Thursday’s batch is the first headed to emergency medical service teams, 178 of which will receive Narcan.
“EMS personnel are often the only medical providers individuals with substance use disorder interact with—their role is vital to not only the care of the patient during and after a reversal, but also to help create a bridge to treatment,” Persichilli said. “Through these programs, New Jersey is helping to pave the road to recovery.”