Dealing with opioid overdoses one passerby at a time
The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts is considering installing “lock boxes” containing Narcan, also known as Naloxone. Individuals nearby could then administer the medication to people with drug overdoses who are found on the street. The possibility of this program began with a survey conducted by public health and safety officials to determine if people would stop to administer a dose of Narcan to a person they find unconscious on the street. In the survey a dummy was placed on the sidewalk for the person to respond to. The passerby would call an emergency dispatch center and be given a code to open the lock box containing Narcan. Currently police, fire and emergency medical personnel have Narcan with them for emergency administration. The initial survey has brought mixed results ranging from people who would stop and help without hesitation to others who expressed health concerns over contact with people who could have HIV or Hepatitis C as well as those who belief that these emergencies should be dealt with by police, fire and emergency medical personnel.
Every 24 minutes, an American dies from an opioid overdose. The Cambridge initiative brings the reality of the opioid epidemic into a different focus, one that affects a person walking down the street. We cannot deny the seriousness of opioid addiction and deaths. The solution is complex. What Cambridge is considering is a way to stop deaths on the most granular level—where they occur.