With Overdoses At Record Highs, Naloxone Made Available In Boxes Statewide

Rescue Medication Can Be Administered Without A Prescription

a fire medic holds a box containing naloxone hydrochloride
In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 photo, a fire medic holds a box containing naloxone hydrochloride which is carried in all their department’s emergency response vehicles, in Akron, Ohio. Keith Srakocic/AP Photos

Isolation from the pandemic led to record-breaking overdoses in 2020. More than 81,000 people died nationally, and more than 500 people in Milwaukee County died from overdoses last year.

Working with Milwaukee-based pharmacy Serve You Rx, the group Wisconsin Voices for Recovery has installed naloxone boxes for people overdosing from opioids.

The rescue medication, commonly known as Narcan, can be administered without a prescription. Dr. Alison Miller, with UW Health, said the symptoms of an overdose are shallow breathing and blue lips.

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“Giving naloxone is really easy, and patients usually revive within minutes,” Miller said.

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Each box will contain naloxone nasal spray, instructions on how to administer the drug, and information about resources for treatment and recovery support.

The naloxone is being provided through the Wisconsin Voices for Recovery ED2 Recovery program, which is supported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services through Wisconsin’s State Opioid Response Grant.

Miller said naloxone can be purchased for $40 a dose, which can be cost prohibitive. Each box contains two doses.

“If someone opens the door, one of our outreach specialists will replace the dose,” Miller said.

So far naloxone boxes have been put into 11 communities at the following locations:

  • Howard Johnson on East Washington Avenue in Madison.
  • Comfort Inn and Suites on East Washington Avenue in Madison.
  • HyVee Restaurant on East Washington Avenue in Madison.
  • Allarus Healthcare in Beaver Dam.
  • Allarus Healthcare in West Bend.
  • Allarus Healthcare in Grafton.
  • Mobil Gas Station on Port Washington Road and Mequon Road in Mequon.
  • BP Gas Station on Port Washington Road and Mequon Road in Mequon.
  • Just Listen in Mequon.
  • Vivent Health in Appleton.
  • Comfort Suites in Portage.

Serve You Rx provided a $40,000 grant for the program. CEO Sharon Murillo wanted to get involved as a health care employer, but also from a personal standpoint. A family member struggled with opioid addiction for 10 years.

“It went from experimenting with it to abusing it to flow blown addiction in front of my very eyes and I didn’t recognize it,” Murillo said. “Unfortunately, when the prescription ended, the only place for him to get it was to turn to the streets.”

Naloxone saved Murillo’s family member’s life on several occasions, and she wanted to do something to help those in the community struggling with addiction. That’s when she met Jessica Geschke, an outreach specialist of Wisconsin Voices for Recovery and decided to make a donation.

“Every place that there is a defibrillator there should be Narcan,” Murillo said. “I want to talk to every one of my clients and say why don’t you have this available? Like a first aid kit.”

Geschke said many people who struggle with substance use disorder do not go out of their way to obtain naloxone due to the stigma around drug abuse and that this new form of access could circumvent that obstacle.

“We developed this project because we want to have the ability to provide naloxone in the case of overdose and for those actively using opioids to be able to reach out and get naloxone with no questions asked,” Geschke said.