ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – In the effort to reduce overdose deaths, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says access to Narcan is a “game-changer.”
The opioid reversal drug is currently available at some county library branches but will soon be available for free at all St. Louis County libraries.
“We’re working very hard to reduce the overdose deaths in St. Louis County,” Page said Thursday.
Dr. Kanika A. Cunningham, director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, believes the stigma surrounding overdoses stands in the way of saving lives.
“This stigma prevents many individuals from seeking care and having access to life-saving medications and information,” she said.
Cunningham and Page said having Narcan available for library visitors will help reduce that stigma and save lives.
“By working together, we can save lives,” said Kristen Sorth, director of St. Louis County Libraries.
St. Louis County reported a decrease of almost 11% in drug overdose deaths last year. Officials say last year still produced the third-highest number of overdose deaths in the past five years.
Ellis Fitzwalter lost his son to an overdose in 2014. He said, initially, he was ashamed.
“For the first year and a half after our son passed, we didn’t even talk to the family about it,” said Fitzwalter. He went on to form the group HEAL: Stop Heroin in honor of his son, Michael.
Fitzwalter believes greater access to Narcan is an important part of saving lives. Another move expected to save lives: Narcan will be available for over-the-counter purchase in September.