AUSTIN (KXAN) — A proposed resolution on Thursday’s city council agenda would get a life-saving medicine, along with training, into the hands of organizations and businesses located in hotspots of opioid overdoses.
The proposal, placed on the agenda by council member Mackenzie Kelly, would provide funding for Austin Travis-County EMS to handout Narcan kits to businesses and organizations.
The Narcan nasal spray reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, and it was just recently approved to be sold over the counter by the Food and Drug Administration.
Where are the hotspots?
The number of opioid overdoses has increased by 300% in the past five years, according to Blake Hardy, an ATCEMS commander. It’s happening especially in certain areas.
Kelly’s office provided KXAN with data showing the number of overdoses that happened over a 14-month period in 2021 and 2022. The Sunset Valley and Riverside zip codes had the most overdoses, combining for almost 200. The city will use this data in determining which businesses and organizations to hand the Narcan kits to.
The top five zip codes for overdoses were:
- 78745 – 100 overdoses
- 78741 – 99 overdoses
- 78753 – 81 overdoses
- 78758 – 78 overdoses
- 78704 – 70 overdoses
But Hardy’s team knows exactly where to go to make sure the Narcan kits are efficient, instead of spreading the Narcan kits all over a zip code.
“If a business has had more than one overdose in a certain amount of time, in or near their business, then we’d like to talk to them about sort of joining the team,” Hardy explained.
Narcan kits save lives
Narcan kits are not new to Austin. ATCEMS started handing out kits back in 2018, and Hardy is glad they did. During an opioid overdose, someone needs to act quick in order to save a life.
“Primary way that opioids hurt you is they stop you from breathing. So, they diminish your breathing to almost none, or zero, so death occurs in minutes,” Hardy said.
On average there are 25 Narcan kits used every month in Austin to save a life before first responders arrive on scene, according to Hardy. That’s why Kelly is pushing to get Narcan kits in areas that see the most overdoses.
“Having these life-saving medications available to business owners and people in the community will save lives,” Kelly said.
This push will add to the current effort to make Narcan more available. The N.I.C.E. Project (Narcan in Case of Emergency) has installed Narcan vending machines around Austin. They are free for anyone to get.
Hardy said the nasal spray is easy to use. It works like any other nasal spray and is much safer than any medication that requires some sort of injection.
“You open the package, you place this in their nostril, and you push,” Hardy said as he showed the ease of administering the life-saving medicine.