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Illinois town Elk Grove Village pilots Narcan project to fight opioid crisis

Joshua Dresner By Joshua Dresner, B.A. on June 22, 2018
Illinois town Elk Grove Village pilots Narcan project to fight opioid crisis

People in Elk Grove Village may begin to see stashes of naloxone, an anti-overdose medication, available in public venues.

Mayor Craig Johnson of Elk Grove Village, a Chicago suburb near O’Hare International Airport, spearheaded an effort to make the vital drug easily available to combat the ongoing opioid crisis.

Elk Grove Village’s mayor said Thursday that 20 nasal spray naloxone kits would be put in city libraries, the administration building, and park district facilities, as well as in other places around the town of 33,000 people. The drug is often marketed under the trade name Narcan. The project will cost $300,000 to $400,000 this year.

Officials in Elk Grove Village also want to put naloxone – which can quickly counteract the worst effects of an opioid overdose from heroin, fentanyl, or similar drugs – in schools and even in the offices of private companies.

Many municipalities in the United States have already given naloxone kits to police, firefighters, ambulance drivers and other first responders. They’ve also made buying the drug easy and inexpensive through pharmacies, in an attempt to encourage the public to learn about the drug and be ready to use it in an emergency.

But Mayor Johnson said Thursday that only two other U.S. cities have done what Elk Grove Village plans – put the drug in common spaces for anyone to use. His experience as a high school wrestling coach who later met one of his former wrestlers who was an addict helped drive him to support this program, Johnson said.

Johnson said Elk Grove Village wasn’t “reinventing the wheel,” but rather had combined successful elements from various programs around the country in designing its policy. He said local officials worked two years getting ready to set the program in motion.

Officials from the suburb said emergency personnel had already treated 20 people with naloxone to reverse overdose effects in the last few years, will 11 of those cases happening this year. According to local news reports citing Cook County records, 16 people have died from opioid overdoses in the last four years in Elk Grove Village.

The village is also emphasizing programs to get drug addicts and abusers into treatment programs without fear of prosecution, though police, officials said, will continue to arrest those caught carrying contraband substances. Public education materials will also be created with the aim of removing some of the stigmas around drug dependency.

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