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Phoenix could make naloxone available to residents, city employees

Phoenix is exploring ways to make naloxone kits more accessible to residents. 

Naloxone is often referred to by the brand name Narcan. The nasal spray or injection restores breathing and reverses overdoses from opioids like fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone. 

Right now, only Phoenix police and fire administer naloxone when responding to overdoses. City staff recently updated council members on plans to expand the program.

Special projects administrator Yanitza Soto described ways other cities make naloxone kits publicly available at no cost, “Such as vending machines in their jails or their hospitals, in their libraries, other locations where community can really have access to the medication and really see it on a daily basis.”

She said other large cities also make naloxone kits available to employees who work for parks and recreation departments, community and senior centers and other locations with high public interactions.

Nicole Witt, the city's public health advisor, said they’re working with various departments to determine which employees to train to carry and administer naloxone .

“It’s a medication that has no street value, it cannot be abused, and it cannot harm anyone who it is administered to,” she said. “So, it saves a life if someone is experiencing opioid overdose, it can help to restore their breathing. But if the individual is not experiencing an overdose, if someone is unconscious and it’s administered to them, and they don’t have opioids in their system, it won’t help them, but it won't hurt them either, so there is no harm associated with naloxone."

Arizona law protects trained medical personnel and police officers from liability except in cases of gross negligence and neglect. Another law provides immunity to community members from liability when naloxone is administered in good faith.

Phoenix plans to expand its program using funding from two national opioid settlements. The city is expected to receive $41 million over 18 years.

According to the city’s office of public health, Phoenix had 991 fatal overdoses in 2022. Of those, 709 were opioid related. The Fire Department responded to 3,869 non-fatal suspected overdoses.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.