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Despite the promise of naloxone programs and the urgent need for effective response to the overdose crisis, the spread of such programs has been relatively slow due to lack of funding. An interdisciplinary group of substance abuse experts, attorneys, public health researchers, advocates, and practitioners assembled an Overdose Summit in December 2008 to address the challenges facing overdose prevention and opioid overdose reversal programs. For a complete report, see Closing Death’s Door: Action Steps to Facilitate Emergency Opioid Drug Overdose Reversal in the United States.
Based on two days of discussions, the Summit generated the following recommendations:
Increase funding for research & interventions
- Federal, state, local and private funders should boost funding of research and intervention efforts aimed at curbing opioid overdose;
- Civil society organizations and funders should lend support to coalitions of people affected by overdose, including parents’ groups in order to help them effectively communicate their experiences and needs, help raise public awareness, and facilitate future policy reform;
Launch public & professional education campaign
- Public health, law enforcement, and academic experts should collaborate on identifying and educating at-risk groups, as well as the public at large, about effective prevention and reversal of opioid overdose, including the administration of naloxone;
- Academic and government actors should engage professional groups and organizations, including healthcare, emergency response, and drug control practitioners, to raise awareness about opioid overdose and facilitate the translation of promising intervention strategies, including increased access to naloxone;
Enact state-level legal reform
- Academic and civil society organizations should advocate for state-level policy reform aimed at eliminating legal barriers to overdose reversal interventions, including authorization for lay naloxone administration and “Good Samaritan” immunity for overdose witnesses who call 911;
Increase availability of accessible formulations
- Federal agencies should address regulatory barriers to wider naloxone access, and should specifically take an active role in advancing re-labeling and re-formulation of naloxone for over-the-counter sale and/or intranasal delivery; and
- Academic, government, and civil society actors should work with the pharmaceutical industry to improve access, reduce cost, and facilitate regulatory changes designed to improve overdose reversal using naloxone.
While these recommendations are all important, the backbone of every harm reduction program and progression has always been those who take the direct action needed. This guide is designed to help you get started.