INGHAM COUNTY - The opioid epidemic still persists in our society, however, steps are being taken to help put an end to this crisis.
Narcan also known as naloxone, the drug typically used by law enforcement and EMS officials to reverse opioid and other drug-related overdose, is now legal for everyone to carry in the state of Michigan. Due to this new law, the Ingham County Health Department made a video educating people about the increased access to Narcan. Linda Vail, the Ingham County Health Officer, said she believes a lot of people are unaware that they are able to carry the drug.
"I don't know that everybody knows that they can carry it and I don't know that everybody know the importance of it," Vail said.
Vail said the video featured the Ingham County Police Chief and other law enforcement members as well as survivors in recovery from opioid addiction to talk about how important Narcan is in addition to letting people know that it is available to them and easy to use.
Vail said she thinks the increased use and accessibility to Narcan is helping to save lives.
"And allowing people that one more day, you know one more week, whatever, to make that decision to go into recovery," Vail said.
The Ingham County Health Officer said she also thinks society is still grappling with realizing that opioid addiction is a disease.
"And we're really wrestling with that, with coming to terms that that's what it is as opposed to bad people doing bad things," Vail said. "So it is very much not bad people doing bad things, it's many people across the board that suffer from a disease, a substance abuse disorder, that needs treatment."
Vail also said that although this law offers increased access and availability to the overdose-reversal drug, it is not enough alone to solve the opioid epidemic.
"It is one of many things that will help us kind of get a lid on this epidemic," Vail said. "It's not simply going to be Narcan. It is not simply going to be increased access to treatment. I mean there are, it is really just a multi-faceted problem that comes from multiple directions. You know some of it has to do with you know what happened originally which was a lot of over-prescribing. We're working on getting that down, but at the same time, people are still addicted. So there are just so so very many things involved and it is such a complicated problem."
Meridian Township Sergeant Scott Dawson said the increased access to Narcan will also help EMS and law enforcement officials.
"Somebody that either is an illegal drug user or has somebody in the family that is addicted to narcotics or whatever, would have the ability to get that administered a lot faster than police or EMS because even, you know something happens right now and you call us, even if we are right around the corner, it could take us three, four, five minutes before we could administer it so if a family member, a friend, whatever, can do that faster it can lead to a lot more positive outcomes," Sgt. Dawson said.
Although there is increased access to Narcan, Sgt. Dawson said Meridian Township Police still receive overdose calls everyday. But, Sgt. Dawson said the fact that there is increased availability to Narcan shows us something.
"By making it available to anybody, we've recognized that there is a problem, people need treatment," Sgt. Dawson said. "We want to save as many lives as possible, we don't just want to give up on people. So, it's a hard thing to kick, but they have to live in order to kick it."
If you are interested in getting trained to carry Narcan, you can visit the Ingham County Health Department. You can also purchase Narcan from a pharmacist without a prescription, according to the Narcan website.