Author: NATE KING
Packaging labels stood in the way of Saline County Health Department officials distributing about $30,000 worth of Narcan doses to the community later than they had hoped.
Back in September, the Saline County Health Department received 240 boxes containing naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray, an opioid overdose reversal drug.
Who was the sender of this large shipment of life-saving drugs? Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Saline County Health Director Jason Tiller said his staff was notified just two days before receiving the shipment.
“We got it (naloxone) and maybe it was the day that this could come,” Tiller said. “So it wasn’t 100%, a complete surprise. When we first got it, we were excited because then it was like, ‘How do we bring this to the community?'”
In total, six counties received shipments of naloxone in September. According to Tiller, KDHE determined the amount of doses delivered to each county based on data showing higher rates of illegal opioid use.
“The group that was actually in charge of it at KDHE ended up picking six counties, I think they were using some information from maybe a year or two before,” Tiller said. “There were a lot of steps along the way that probably could have been done differently.” But regardless, we are where we are.”
According to KDHE, from 2012 to 2021, there were 91 drug overdose deaths in Saline County. On average, this equates to 17.55 deaths per 100,000 people per year for 10 years.
KDHE released an assessment in September 2022 that found 21 of Kansas’ 105 counties had the “highest relative vulnerability” to opioid overdose deaths.
Saline County made the list, as did Sedgwick, Reno, Shawnee, Douglas and Sumner counties.
Tiller’s plans to distribute naloxone throughout Saline County were soon put on hold due to what he described as red tape and a lack of planning by KDHE.
Naloxone devices supplied to the Saline County Health Department are not labeled as over-the-counter; they are marked as prescription only or Rk only.
According to Tiller, state statutes dictate how and who can distribute naloxone only for Rk. But, he said, the two types of drugs are otherwise the same except for the packaging.
“It’s the same drug. For example, I can walk into CVS or another pharmacy where they have over-the-counter naloxone, but it’s listed as OTC or over-the-counter,” Tiller said. “There are different laws and regulations that apply to Rk-only drugs. It prevents us from just handing them out, which is a real pain.”
Three days after SCHD received the shipment, KDHE emailed the health directors for the six counties that received the naloxone, telling them not to distribute the drug until further guidance.
“KDHE is like any state organization. They’re big and sometimes there’s a disconnect between different departments and divisions,” Tiller said.
For about a month, Tiller pleaded with KDHE for a solution in phone calls and emails.
“Honestly, it was probably less of a conversation and more like I was bugging them that they already figured it out,” Tiller said.
Finally, KDHE hosted a webinar on Oct. 17 to tell health directors about its plan to distribute naloxone to first responders.
As of November 14, all 240 boxes were distributed to first aid groups.
According to Annabelle Fauto, Saline County Health Educator, Saline County EMS and the Saline Police Department each received 80 boxes, and the Saline County Sheriff’s Office received 60 boxes.
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