WOODBURY, N.J. (CBS) – Gloucester County is taking a bold step in the fight against the opioid crisis. Officials are handing out so-called harm reduction kits to some people suffering with addiction, containing Narcan, the nasal spray that can revive those who’ve overdosed.
An opioid-related overdose happened more than 300 times last year in Gloucester County alone.
“These are our friends. These are our loved ones,” Gloucester County Freeholder Jim Jefferson said. “These are our neighbors.”
County officials have created a new program, which will be the first of its kind in New Jersey, all stuffed into a little red case.
“We’ve supplied Narcan recovery kits between our county-run EMS, the two hospitals at a clip of 100 kits each,” Jefferson said.
The 300 kits, which will be given to those admitted from an overdose, contain Narcan, which can reverse overdose.
“They’ve been recovered from an overdose either in the community or at the local hospital,” Jefferson said.
But more importantly, the kits include information about recovery and a mandatory follow-up from a registered nurse.
“To see if the Narcan kit has been used,” Jefferson said. “If you’ve got into treatment, is there anything else we can do at the follow-up to getting you into treatment to get you help.”
“We want to make sure people know that we care,” Jefferson added, “and that we’re not just giving them medicine and sending them on their way.”
County taxes pay for the $30 kits. Even so, Jerry Miller, who’s lost a loved one to the opioid epidemic, thinks the kits go too far.
“I don’t agree with the whole Narcan thing,” Miller said, “because I think it’s just encouraging the addict to go and use.”
But others believe it’s money well spent.
“I think it’s a very good program because you’ve got so many young people and older people too that are on drugs,” Earl Corbin said.
“If we don’t try to do something about it,” Karen McCaul-Jervis said, “it’s going to affect generations.”
County officials say this is only a pilot program, but it will be expanded if it gets those suffering with addiction into recovery programs.