The tiny vial and syringe sitting on Kim Brown’s kitchen table may not look like much, but to many, it’s something that can make a big impact in the war on opioids.
“That’s really all you need to save a life right there,” said Brown of the naloxone, a medication used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose.
Brown is the president and co-founder of Quad-Cities Harm Reduction, a nonprofit group that supports the adoption of more evidence-based harm-reduction strategies and fewer punitive measures associated with drug use.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a prescription medication that typically ranges in cost between $3,500 to $4,500 per dose for people without insurance and up to $150 for those with insurance coverage.
Beginning June 1, it was easier for people struggling with addiction, as well as their loved ones, to gain access to the life-saving medication.
University of Iowa Health Care Doctor Chris Buresh provided a new standing order that allows Quad-Cities Harm Reduction and the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition in Iowa City to dispense naloxone without prescription to Iowans at little to no cost.
The order took effect June 1.
Both groups will provide the medication weekly at sites in Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
The mission of the organizations is to employ harm reduction methods and promote health equity through compassionate, nonjudgmental community services, education and advocacy.
Naloxone became available in Iowa pharmacies without a prescription in November 2016 after the Iowa Board of Pharmacy and the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health created a standing order and finalized the rule-making process for pharmacies to dispense.
Brown lost her son Andy Lamp, 33, to an accidental heroin overdose in May 2011.
In October, the Quad-City Times reported on the group’s efforts to bring more harm reduction practices to the Quad-Cities. One big goal of QC Harm Reduction was to expand access to the naloxone.
Brown said harm reduction groups approached Buresh after proposed bills that would have created a statewide standing order to allow them to them to dispense naloxone and provide for a clean needle exchange were “funneled out” of the state legislature.
“We had a doctor that saw that the need was too urgent to wait around for the 2018 session, so he wrote us a standing order so that we could continue our work,” she said. “It’s just been an awesome thing; it’s been a joy it’s just going help move harm reduction forward in the state of Iowa,” she said.
Brown said she believes that people who are active drug users are “real hesitant and reluctant to walk into a public place and ask for help because we criminalize what they are doing and they are scared.”
“I think if that cloak of fear was lifted from their shoulders, we probably would see people begin a little more outwardly to express the need for the overdose reversal drug or help with making some positive steps and getting into treatment,” she said.
Brown said there have been five reported saves locally since that standing order took effect.
Starting July 1, will make naloxone available at the Center Love in Action Church, 1411 Brady St. Brown said she is still working on setting specific hours.
The Center is a group of ministries seeking Christ-centered actions to alleviate the pain of the oppressed and marginalized.
Director Pennie Kellenberger said the partnership with QC Harm Reduction is a good fit.
"One of the things Kim says is that every life is worth saving," she said. "No matter what, here at the center we believe the same thing. No matter who you are and what you've done, you are worthy of receiving assistance and receiving help."
Kellenberger said she believes making Naloxone available to those who need it will save lives.
"Whether our community wants to admit it or not, there seems to be more and more lives that are taken due to this epidemic and the more we talk about it, the more it's kind of coming out of the woodwork of people who have lost loved ones due to a heroin overdose," she said. "It seems like the more we talk about it, the more you hear people say 'I know someone who have lost loved ones,' so I think this will definitely save lives."
Brown continues to do trainings in the community, which includes homeless shelters, to teach people how to use the medication and provide them with overdose kits.
She added that Quad-Cities Harm Reduction will continue its work to bring other harm-reduction methods, such as a clean needle exchange and medication-assisted treatment, to the Quad-Cities and throughout the state of Iowa.
Anyone interested in accessing Naloxone can contact the Quad-Cities Harm Reduction hotline at 563-265-1859.