Quick and easy access to life-saving Narcan when someone is overdosing from an opioid is crucial. To expand public access to Narcan in a life-threatening emergency, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and the Departments of Health, Community Mental Health and Social Services, with support from the Westchester County Opioid Response and Overdose Prevention Initiative (ORI), are partnering with the County housing shelters to provide each with Naloxboxes, secured metal housing units that are mounted to a wall and contain two doses of Narcan nasal spray. Latimer will launch the Naloxbox program from Volunteers of America – Greater New York in Valhalla, the first County shelter to receive and install this lifesaving resource.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “When used during those crucial moments, Narcan can mean the difference between life and death. A Naloxbox provides around-the-clock access to this life-saving drug, and we are hoping that through this program, we will see fewer overdose deaths in Westchester.”
Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medication approved to reverse overdose by opioids. Naloxone is given when a person is showing signs of an opioid overdose. It blocks the toxic effects of the overdose and restores breathing to the individual.
Westchester County Health Commissioner, Dr. Sherlita Amler said, “Our mission is to save lives. These units, when appropriately placed in locations with a high incidence of opioid overdose, will help us more easily administer treatment at the time of an overdose.”
Commissioner of the Department of Community Mental Health Michael Orth said, “The Opioid Response Initiative is an outstanding collaboration between law enforcement organizations and several County departments that all have a stake in reducing the number of overdoses, and overdose-related fatalities in Westchester. The purchase and installation of these Naloxboxes will help to save lives of the people we collectively serve, and continue our County on the path to effectively meeting the needs of the people of Westchester.”
Commissioner of the Department of Social Services Leonard Townes said, “The Department works tirelessly serving those most in need in Westchester County, and the residents experiencing homelessness need and deserve access to this lifesaving tool and treatment to prevent the devastating effects of opioid abuse including death. By saving lives, we can connect residents with the help they need to recover and pursue healthy and productive lives in our communities.”
President and CEO of Volunteers of America–Greater New York Myung Lee said, “The last several years have laid bare just how intertwined housing, public health, and homelessness really are, as our neighbors experiencing homelessness have disproportionately suffered since the onset of the pandemic in numerous ways, including overdose deaths. That is why we are so proud to partner with Westchester County in an important endeavor to make Naloxboxes available at every County shelter and equip the community with the tools they need to save lives.”
Labeled “Opioid Rescue Kit,” the “Naloxbox” is similar to publicly sited Automated External Defibrillators (“AEDs”), providing both a life-saving resource as well as instructions for use. Tear away instruction sheets with written and graphical elements on Narcan administration are included in all the boxes, as well as a mask to perform rescue breathing, if necessary. The Health Department also created signage with a QR code that links to a 50-second video clip on how to administer Narcan that is posted near each Naloxbox.
In 2020, 75% of the nearly 92,000 drug overdoses that occurred in the United States involved an opioid.
In 2014, the Health Department began training police officers and providing them with Narcan. In 2015, the Health Department expanded the program to include community trainings. To date, thousands of community members have been trained including school district nurses and staff, library and other community centers staff, family members of people who use drugs, probation officers, medical/dental students and many other Westchester County workers and residents. In 2019, the Health Department began community “street” trainings to reach people at a high risk of overdose.
In early July, the Department of Health trained and certified members of the Mobile Crisis Response Teams in Project Alliance to administer Narcan. Project Alliance, formed under Latimer’s leadership, includes the Departments of Public Safety, Community Mental Health and Emergency Services. The Mobile Crisis Response Teams will be deployed with local police departments for immediate crisis response in the community.
The Westchester County ORI was formed in response to a rise in overdose deaths in Westchester County during the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes representatives from the Westchester County Departments of Community Mental Health, Health, Social Services, Public Safety, the Medical Examiner’s Office, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, and local and federal law enforcement. The ORI brings together key stakeholders from across Westchester County who work collaboratively to prevent overdose deaths, and save lives.