Pennsylvania will spend $5 million on the overdose-reversal medication naloxone to help first responders fight the toll of the opioid epidemic, state officials announced Thursday.
The money from this year's budget will buy 120,000 doses of the lifesaving medication for distribution to police, EMTs, and other first responders across the state over the next two years.
"Naloxone has one purpose: to reverse the fatal effects of an opioid overdose and to save a life," said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state physician general. "We can't get people suffering from the disease of opioid addiction into treatment if they're dead."
The naloxone will be divided up among counties based on factors including population, the number of overdose deaths, and information from the state's prescription drug-monitoring program. County officials will decide how to distribute the naloxone among first responders in their communities, many of which have been devoting more of their budgets to buying the drug as overdose deaths have risen. Pennsylvania saw 4,462 fatal overdoses last year, an increase of 37 percent over 2015.
Officials said the term "first responder" doesn't include just police officers and EMTs. They also want the naloxone distributed to "librarians, public transit drivers, and drug treatment providers, who find themselves in the position of being the first person able to respond to an overdose," said Charles Ramsey, who heads the state agency in charge of the effort.
Counties have until Nov. 6 to apply for a share of the state-supplied naloxone, and the first kits could be sent out as soon as next month.