DA thanks Cigna for naloxone replenishment

If naloxone had been available to rock star Prince the day he died in April, he might have been revived – just as he had been days earlier, according to published reports.

Narcan is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Narcan is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

His death, another casualty of the epidemic of opioid addiction, continues to focus attention on the importance of naloxone, which reverses the effects of overdoses caused by heroin and prescription opioids.

On Friday, June 24, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced in a press release that the global health service company Cigna has donated $7,500 to pay for Chester County to restock supplies of naloxone. Hogan said this is the latest in a series of Chester County accomplishments involving naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan.

In 2014, seeing the growing toll of heroin overdose deaths in the region, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office teamed up with state legislators and other prosecutors to create the “Good Samaritan Law,” allowing police and other first responders to carry naloxone.

The District Attorney’s Office then turned to the Good Fellowship Ambulance Club (GFAC) in West Chester to administer the program. Ethan Healy of GFAC spearheaded the effort. GFAC provided training on how to administer naloxone and supplied the life-saving drug to law enforcement throughout Chester County. The grant from Cigna allowed GFAC to restock supplies of naloxone across Chester County, the release said.

In May of 2016, Cigna, a health service company that serves 26 million customers, committed to reducing its customers’ opioid use by 25 percent over the next three years. The Cigna Foundation has donated $50,000 to make naloxone available for use by first responders in Pennsylvania, the release said.

To date, 46 out of the 47 law enforcement agencies in Chester County have agreed to carry naloxone, including the Pennsylvania State Police and all municipal departments except East Whiteland Township. As a result, police have made 58 saves using naloxone in Chester County, the release said.

“Good Fellowship has partnered with several agencies, including the Chester County Chiefs of Police Association, Chester County Department of Health, Chester County Drug and Alcohol Services, and the Chester County District Attorney’s Office to offer the most comprehensive care, recovery options, and community support to battle this epidemic,” Healy, GFAC’s Project Naloxone leader, said in the release.

Tredyffrin Township Police Superintendent Anthony Giaimo, who also heads the Chester County Police Chiefs Association, called naloxone an indisputably monumental tool. “For saving lives, it is on par with the acquisition and use of AEDs (automated external defibrillators) by law enforcement officers in the early 1990s,” he said in the release. “These impactful public safety programs allow law enforcement officers and other first responders the critical lifesaving tools necessary in emergency interventions.”

Giaimo expressed thanks from the Chester County Police Chiefs Association to all those who pushed for the legislation, funding, and implementation to make the naloxone program a true success. “We know that the family and friends of the survivors certainly do,” he said in the release.

Pam Moules, a parent who runs the Steps 4 Hope Foundation to raise awareness of substance abuse, said that 82 people in Chester County died from a drug-related overdose in 2014. “Tragically, that statistic includes my son, Jonathan,” she said in the release. “After passing the Good Samaritan Law and the signing of the standing order to make naloxone available over the counter, Chester County wasted no time using all the tools available to them to address the opioid epidemic.

“Increased access to naloxone is saving lives, giving families and those suffering with the disease of addiction hope that they will have a second chance to get the help they need for recovery,” Moules said. “I speak for all parents who have lost a child to this disease and all parents who do not want to lose a child in the future.”

Hogan said Chester County has been recognized for its efforts to deal with the opioid epidemic.

“We have a strong naloxone program, prescription drug drop boxes, a robust drug court, the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education programs in the high schools, and a multidisciplinary task force to address these issues,” he said in the release. “We realize that the scourge of opioids strikes everybody and we are committed to saving lives. We deeply appreciate Cigna’s generosity in helping Chester County to achieve this goal.”

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