Free overdose-reversal kits are given to Kentucky hospitals with the highest recent rates of heroin-overdose deaths

Kentucky hospitals with the highest rates of heroin overdose deaths are receiving funding for heroin/opiate overdose reversal kits, which will be provided free of charge to every treated and discharged overdose victim at the pilot project hospitals, according to a state press release.

The funding for these kits is through the Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory Committee, which oversees the distribution of a $32 million pharmaceutical settlement fund that is used to expand treatment in Kentucky. The committee has allocated $105,000 to purchase these kits for the pilot hospitals: the University of Louisville Hospital, the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, and the St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky.

In 2013, 230 Kentuckians died from heroin overdoses. Final numbers for heroin overdoses in 2014 are not yet available, but the Office of Drug Control Policy estimates heroin was involved in 30 percent of all drug-overdose deaths, according to the release.

Attorney General Jack Conway chairs the committee and First Lady Jane Beshear serves on it. They announced recently that about 500 of these kits will be made available to the St. Elizabeth system, which treated 545 people in 2013 and 745 people in 2014 for heroin overdoses.

“There is evidence the collaborative efforts in our community are having an effect,” St. Elizabeth interim president and CEO Garren Colvin said in the release. “A report earlier this month indicated that heroin-related overdose deaths are down in Northern Kentucky. … To continue to battle heroin issues in our community and throughout Kentucky, it is going to take education and collaboration at the local and state levels.”

Naloxone, which is also known as Narcan, is the drug in the free Naloxone Rescue kits and “has no potential for abuse and immediately reverses the effects of heroin overdose by physiologically blocking the effects of opiates,” says the release.

One of the challenges for access to these kits is that they are not covered by Medicaid or many private insurance companies and are too expensive for most people to purchase. Health experts anticipate that when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the nasal mist form of the drug, most insurance companies and Medicaid will cover it.

“As Kentuckians expand access to mental health treatment, including addiction recovery, it’s more important than ever to have community access to tools like Narcan,” Jane Beshear said in the release. “Often, an overdose experience is what finally drives people suffering from addiction to seek help.”

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