West Virginia Dispenses Thousands Of Free Naloxone Kits

West Virginia is adopting a groundbreaking approach for providing supportive care to those wth drug addiction.

In response to posting the highest opioid overdose death rates in the nation, the state is dispensing 8,000 free kits of opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. West Virginia’s overdose death rate is 41.5 people per 100,000, four times the national average.

A $1 million federal grant is funding the initiative. The 8,000 naloxone kits will go directly to those most likely to deal with overdose victims, including high-risk individuals, first responder and needle exchange programs.

“Naloxone is a lifesaving antidote that, if administered in a timely manner, can effectively reverse respiratory depression caused by opioid and opiate overdose and revive victims,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of West Virginia’s Bureau for Public Health, to CBS News. “This collaboration represents an essential step toward turning around West Virginia’s staggering overdose statistics.”

West Virginia emergency services administered 4,186 doses of naloxone in all of 2016. That number doesn’t include uses by hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers, first responders and family members.

In addition to the overdose reversal kits, West Virginia is trying to facilitate more conversations about opioid addiction.

“We’re looking at addiction as a chronic relapsing disease rather than a stigma,” said Gupta, adding that state efforts include providing more treatment, counseling and workforce training.