The Miami County Health Department informed the Indiana State Department of Health they do not intend to renew their grant for the overdose medication Naloxone.
Naloxone, better known as Narcan, is a drug which is used to treat narcotic overdoses in emergent situations.
In a September letter to the ISDH, Miami County Health Officer Rafik Farag stated the county did not intend on renewing the Narcan grant, nor do they intend to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Four County Counseling Center.
The cancelling of the grant comes just months after Farag denied a bid from Miami County Systems of Car Coordinator Antonia Sawyer to implement a syringe service program-- a needle exchange-- stating the county does not have an epidemic.
According to Farag’s letter to the ISDH, opioid-related arrests and deaths are down in Miami County.
“We have seen a decrease in opioid and heroin arrests and in opioid and heroin overdoses in the last few months,” Farag wrote. “Unfortunately, that change has come with an increase in the number of methamphetamine arrests, resulting from increased availability of meth.”
In his letter, Farag calls meth Miami County’s drug of choice and indicates Naloxone is ineffective in methamphetamine overdoses.
Miami County Deputy Coroner John Boyer, who is also a Miami County Emergency Medical Technician, said overdose deaths have increased and cited heroin as the main drug of choice in these instances.
“Those numbers have been dramatically up over the last couple of years,” he said.
Boyer caveated this statement by saying readily available Naloxone may actually also be part of the problem because he thinks it may give users of opioid narcotics a false sense of security and may encourage them to push the boundaries of non-lethal amounts of drugs.
“There are groups of people who sit around and shoot up heroin and have somebody standing by with Narcan,” he said. “I think the idea of taking it away from the general public will actually save more lives than you think.”
Boyer indicated the difficutly in being able to concretely determine whether readily availale Naloxone is harmful or helpful to the community.
“It’s really hard to say how much it’s helped or hurt,” he said. “The best bet is to just stay away from the stuff; it’s not safe.”
In a statement from Miami County Health Nurse Marie Nichols, the county could always revisit the grant, should they feel the need arise.
“We, of course, keep our options open on renewing the grant in the future,” she wrote.
In her statement, Nichols also stated grants are available to first responder agencies within the county.
“Miami County Sheriff’s Department has Narcan available, as does the Peru Police Department have their own grant,” she wrote.
Nichols also stated Naloxone is available for purchase at all area pharmacies.
According to CVS Pharmacies Corporate Communications Director Erin Shields Britt, the pharmacy chain has protocols in place which allows pharmacists to dispense Naloxone in either a nasal spray or intramuscular injection form without a prescription.
Britt said the cost varies for those who have insurance.
“For customers without insurance, the intramuscular Naloxone is available for about $38 and the Narcan nasal spray is about $95,” she wrote via email.
A pharmacist at the Peru Walgreens location also confirmed the availability of Narcan for about $135 per dose. According to the Walgreens location, there is no identification required to purchase.
The letter Farag sent to ISDH does state there are plenty of Narcan doses available, however.
“At present, all first responders, both police and medical agencies, have a substantial supply on hand,” he wrote. “They report that Narcan usage has diminished commensurate with the reduction in opioid and heroin cases.”