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Overdose-Prevention Program Equips More Tennesseans with Naloxone

Regional overdose-prevention specialists in Tennessee have given away 35,000 units of naloxone across the state. (@monsterphotoiso/Twenty20)
Regional overdose-prevention specialists in Tennessee have given away 35,000 units of naloxone across the state. (@monsterphotoiso/Twenty20)
April 4, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A regional overdose-prevention program that equips citizens with naloxone is expanding across the state.

Tennessee has seen increasing numbers of overdose deaths in recent years because of opioid use. But the program, which already has put 35,000 naloxone kits into residents' hands, aims to change that.

In October 2017, the state placed regional overdose-prevention specialists in communities where overdose deaths were highest. These individuals are training others on when and how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote. They're handing out naloxone kits and educating people about addiction.

Matthew Parriott, director of communication for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, confirmed the program is saving lives.

"We have documented that at least 2,000 lives have been saved through this program," Parriott said, "and we believe the actual number to be much higher. But because of the stigma of addiction and other reasons, somebody might not necessarily report to us, 'Oh yeah, I saved my brother's life with the naloxone you gave me. He's still at risk for overdose. Can I have another dose?'"

Regional overdose-prevention specialists have trained more than 30,000 people statewide, and Parriott said the program is now expanding.

"What we did was, we partnered with the Tennessee Department of Health to look at, where is the overdose prevalence highest, where is the need the greatest?" he explained. "And so, we added additional coverage in Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville. And then, the suburban area around metro Nashville-Davidson County we divided up, so we added coverage there."

He added many of the people employed as regional overdose-prevention specialists are in recovery from addiction, and are using their life experiences to help others.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - TN