Mail order Narcan expands access in Racine County

Experts say Mail Me Narcan removes barriers to the life-saving drug

Narcan nasal spray. Image courtesy: VCU Capital News Service (flickr)

A new program in Racine County hopes to make the medication used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose more widely available to area residents.

Thirteen orders for Narcan, also known as naloxone, have been filled through the Mail Me Narcan program, which the City of Racine Public Health Department launched May 10.  

It’s the second known agency or organization in the state to mail the nasal spray directly to individuals, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The Bad River tribe started a similar program last year.

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Sarah Clemons, community health program coordinator at the Racine Public Health Department, said it’s the newest way to remove the stigma around getting help.

“Being able to provide it to people through the mail makes it a little bit more private for people and that might be another avenue to get more Narcan out to the people that need it,” Clemons said.

The program also eliminates another barrier: transportation. Ryan Rehak, director of community engagement at peer-led recovery nonprofit Wis Hope, said it can be especially hard in rural areas to reach an organization or vending machine that distributes Narcan. He said he thinks the program in Racine is a step toward equitable access.

“(The program) is really going to be even just one step farther into normalizing that, giving everybody access to it and just making it a regular part of people’s first aid kit,” Rehak said.

Each order comes with two doses of Narcan, fentanyl test strips, a pocket CPR mask and information about local substance abuse resources.

Rehak said it’s important to meet people where they are in their substance use journey.

“Maybe giving somebody Narcan and saving their life keeps them alive long enough to get that help down the road,” he said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”

The future of Narcan use

In 2022, a record high 1,464 Wisconsinites died of opioid overdoses. That’s compared to 613 opioid-related deaths in 2015.

Nationwide overdose deaths have surpassed 100,000 for the third straight year, according to federal data released Wednesday.

While a national organization mails Narcan directly to people across the United States, including to Wisconsinites, the program in Racine is a unique local approach. And Rehak sees potential for similar programs to pop up around the state.

“Once you see a couple of counties do it and see how it helps, then all the rest of them very quickly seem to just jump on board,” Rehak said.

The first vending machine distributing free Narcan and fentanyl test strips can be seen here in Milwaukee at the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center. Evan Casey/WPR

Mail Me Narcan was inspired by the Mail Me Condoms program, which the city health department said was “very successful” in expanding access to safe sex supplies. Clemons said the target audience for the Narcan program is people who use drugs or know people who do.

“We’re really excited with the response so far,” Clemons said.

Need help?

If you are struggling with addiction, call 211 or the crisis hotline at 988 to be connected with resources.

The Mail Me Narcan program can be accessed through an online form. It’s limited to one mailing per person, per month for individuals residing in Racine County. It’s also available at the health department and vending machines.

There are also different resources across the state. Wis Hope distributes Narcan across the state and offers trainings on how to safely administer it. Narcan can be purchased at pharmacies without a prescription. It’s also available for free through Wisconsin’s Narcan Direct program. Click here for a map of where it’s available in Wisconsin.

Editor’s note: this story has been edited to clarifthe Bad River tribe also sends opioid reversal drugs through the mail.