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Phoenix makes Narcan available at all of its public libraries for free

The city of Phoenix hopes to help counter the ongoing opioid crisis by making Narcan available for free at each of its 17 public libraries. The lifesaving drug is used to treat opioid overdoses.

Narcan is the brand name version of naloxone, which comes as a nasal spray or injection. Each kit contains two doses of Narcan nasal spray, a pair of gloves and dosing information.

Nicole Witt, the city’s public health advisor, said Narcan is easy to administer and should be part of every first aid kit.

“By providing it in a variety of settings that hopefully we can destigmatize – at least start to destigmatize - the conversation around substance use and definitely harm reduction,” Witt said, “and hopefully save lives.”

In Phoenix, 991 people died of an overdose last year. Witt said opioid-related overdoses make up the majority of those deaths.

“We account for more than half of the overdoses within Maricopa County,” she said of the city.

Removing cost barrier

According to Witt, those overdoses happen across the community.

“The first step is to put tools in our community to prevent people from dying,” Witt said.

Libraries, she said, are a natural partner for the program, which she added also helps remove one major barrier to accessing Narcan: cost.

“[From] individuals who want to purchase it,” Witt said, “we’ve heard [prices anywhere from] $50 to $100.”

Witt said the city is also working on a community survey to assess current knowledge on opioids and determine priorities for some of the $380 million that Arizona will receive as part of a national settlement with drug makers.

First responders also praised the program.

“It’s a great tool to have the public be first responders," Kimberly Quick-Ragsdale of the Phoenix Fire Department said. "If they’re recognizing an opiate overdose, they can administer Narcan.” 

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Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.