By NATE KING
The packaging labels prevented Saline County Health Department officials from distributing approximately $30,000 worth of naloxone.
Back in September, the Saline County Health Department received 240 boxes containing naloxone hydrochloride nasal sprays, 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 only notified two days before receiving the shipment.
“We got it (naloxone) and maybe there was a day that it could come,” Tiller said. “So it wasn’t 100% a complete surprise. When we first got it, we were excited because it’s like, “How can we get this out into the community?”
In total, six counties received naloxone shipments in September. According to Tiller, KDHE determined the number of doses sent to each county based on higher rates of illegal opioid use.
“The group that was actually responsible for this at KDHE ended up picking six counties, I think, using maybe a year or two of information from before,” Tiller said. “There were a lot of steps along the way that probably could have been done differently. But regardless, we’re here.”
Between 2012 and 2021, there were 91 drug overdose deaths in Saline County, according to KDHE. On average, this equates to 17.55 deaths per 100,000 people per year over 10 years.
KDHE released an estimate in September 2022 that found 21 of Kansas’ 105 counties have 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 roll out naloxone throughout Saline County were soon put on hold because of what he described as red tape and KDHE’s lack of planning.
Naloxone devices delivered to the Saline County Health Department are not labeled as over-the-counter. they are labeled as prescription only or Rx only.
According to Tiller, state statutes dictate how and who can distribute Rx-only naloxone. But, he said, the two types of medicine are otherwise the same except for the packaging.
“It’s the same medicine. For example, I can walk into a CVS or another pharmacy where they have Naloxone OTC, but it’s listed as OTC or over-the-counter,” Tiller said. “There are different laws and regulations that apply to Rx only drugs. It doesn’t allow us to just hand them over, which is a real pain.”
Three days after receiving SCHD’s shipment, KDHE sent an email to the health directors of the six counties that received naloxone, telling them not to distribute the medication until they provide further guidance.
“KDHE is like any government organization. They are big and sometimes there are disconnects between different departments and divisions,” Tiller said.
For nearly a month, Tiller asked KDHE to find a solution to the phone calls and emails.
“Honestly, it was probably less conversational and more like I was harassing them if they still got it,” Tiller said.
Finally, KDHE held 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 have been deployed to first response teams.
Saline County EMS and the Salina Police Department received 80 boxes each, and the Saline County Sheriff’s Office received 60 boxes, according to Annabelle Fauto, health educator for the Saline County Health Department.
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