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Phoenix needs twice as many naloxone kits to keep up with demand, official says

Phoenix’s program offering free naloxone kits is so popular, the city’s public health director wants to double its supply. The kits contain lifesaving drugs to treat opioid overdoses.

Since mid-August, the kits have been stocked at all 17 public libraries, but they’re not always available.

Phoenix’s Public Health Director Nicole Witt said kits are distributed monthly but often run out before the next supply.

“We’re sort of in uncharted territory, right? It's a brand new program and we’re rolling it out and so, we’re doing our best to monitor the need and then create what we think is the right amount,” she said.

Phoenix gets 500 kits a month through the state’s share of a federal program, but Witt estimates the city needs 1,000 kits, not only for libraries but the Community Assistance Program, which handles mental health and substance abuse calls. 

“I think we were, as a team, surprised. We knew there were gaps. I think we didn’t realize how large the gaps were for such an important and lifesaving medication in our community,” Witt said.

She said her office will ask the City Council to approve 6,000 more kits, estimated to cost $300,000. As Phoenix continues to work with the state, county and other entities, the numbers could change.

The kits include:

  • Two doses (4 mg) of Narcan nasal spray.
  • One pair of nitrile gloves.
  • One breathing shield for CPR rescue breaths.
  • An instructional pamphlet in English and Spanish.

In addition to making naloxone kits available at public libraries with no questions and no ID required, Phoenix employees and non-employee volunteers can carry naloxone or have access to treat overdoses. As of Oct. 1, the city said 2,448 employees and volunteers have completed training, which will be reviewed and renewed annually.
Between July and September, Phoenix distributed 2,073 naloxone kits through city programs, with most going to libraries. During that same period, the Phoenix Fire Department administered naloxone to 1,792 people, and Phoenix police administered the drug to 40 people. On average, the Fire Department responds to 4,000 overdose calls annually.

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