SUNBURY — Anita Kiger visited Northumberland County's State Health Center on Wednesday morning to pick up free overdose antidote naloxone just to be safe.
Kiger said one of her family members is an addict and she would like to also have the antidote available at her local beauty shop. Kiger was one of the hundreds of people to take advantage of the Pennsylvania Health Department's giveaway at 87 locations across the state on Wednesday. Health officials will repeat the practice next Wednesday at 87 sites, including four in the region.
"Everyone has a stigma when it comes to addicts," Kiger said. "They are good people, just in a hard place. It doesn't matter what background they come from, this could happen to anyone. They need our support."
On Wednesday, free naloxone was available at state health centers in Montour, Northumberland and Union counties, along with the Selinsgrove Center.
Karen Carman, a community health nurse at the Sunbury center, said any concerned citizen or family member can get naloxone at the health centers or a local pharmacy.
She said when individuals arrive at the health center, the receive instructions on how to use the naloxone.
"It's a simple nose spray," Carman said. "People are also directed to call 911 right away, even if they respond immediately. Your first response is to get it in the body right away, then call 911."
Wednesday's event is part of a statewide initiative Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone to Pennsylvanians and get help for residents suffering from the disease of opioid use disorder.
State health officials on Wednesday highlighted the progress the state has made to prescribing guidelines, including its live drug monitoring program.
“The prescribing guidelines developed by the Safe and Effective Prescribing Task Force are essential to assist health care providers as they treat their patients,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Wednesday. “In updating the guidelines on how to treat pain in patients with opioid use disorder, we are helping physicians as they work to treat people who are already dealing with the disease of addiction. It is important that physicians look at a wide range of therapies as they work to treat this growing subset of the population.”
According to state officials, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 27 percent and has "virtually eliminated" doctor shopping. Additionally, more than 6,000 health care professionals have trained on prescribing opioids cautiously and judiciously. More than 100 licensed physicians or prescribers have been disciplined for wrongful practice over the past two years, according to the state.
If pills get into the wrong hands and an emergency arises, people like Kiger now have the life-saving drug in their reach.
Kiger said one of her family members has gone in and out of recovery in recent years, so she wants to have naloxone at home and her beauty salon.
"You never know when it can happen at your place," she said. "We have to be able to help them."