TRENTON, NJ – According to New Jersey's Department of Human Services (NJDHS), June 18 was the largest single-day public distribution of Naloxone in the country, with 16,000 packs of the drug, commonly known as Narcan, distributed. The effort was part of the department's initiative to provide Naloxone for free at pharmacies throughout New Jersey.
The NJDHS made Naloxone available for free and without individual prescriptions at 174 pharmacies. Each pack contained two doses of Naloxone nasal spray, resulting in more than 32,000 doses distributed in 24 hours. The Department encourages individuals to carry Naloxone and to be prepared to help intervene and reverse opioid overdoses.
More than 3,000 New Jerseyans died of drug overdoses in 2018, with 133 of those fatalities taking place in Union County. So far in 2019, 23 overdose deaths have been reported.
According to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, there were 27 Naloxone deployments in May after a 26-month low of 10 police-administered Naloxone deployments Countywide in April.
As of June 21, there were 125 Narcan deployments in Union County this year, down from 316 in 2018. Two of the the 2019 deployments have come in Summit.
"Our goal is to save lives,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “Individuals with opioid addiction now have a better chance of surviving an overdose and getting connected to treatment, thanks to the willingness of New Jerseyans to carry naloxone and help us tackle this critical challenge in our State." Commissioner Johnson said. “New Jerseyans have sent a message – we want to save lives.”
Pharmacist Chris Yanoschak of Boyt Drugs in Metuchen said he was “overwhelmed” by some of the stories people shared about losing loved ones and wanting to be prepared to try to save someone else. The pharmacy distributed 135 boxes on Tuesday.
“We had a high demand, about one person every five minutes,” Yanoschak said. “I wasn’t surprised there was a good turnout because there were no questions asked, but it has affected so many more people than I thought. We have lost some young ones in town so we had a lot of concerned parents too. It was a great way for people to try to help out.”
Pharmacist Chirag Patel of the Walgreens on Route 33 in Hamilton called the day a “unique experience.” The pharmacy distributed 168 boxes.
“I was happy to see so many people came out to help others,” Patel said. “I connected with numerous individuals throughout the day. Without asking, some shared their stories of their family and friends who died from an opioid overdose. Everyone was very appreciative of having our store participate in this event. I'm proud I was able to help families and caregivers and potentially save someone's life.”
Free Naloxone day also was an opportunity to share information about the importance of getting connected to treatment. Commissioner Johnson urged anyone needing help with addiction to call the State’s treatment assistance hotline anytime day or night at 1-844-REACHNJ.
“Treatment works and recovery is possible,” Commissioner Johnson said.