Chicago area hospital sending overdose patients home with free Narcan kits

OAK LAWN, Ill. – A suburban hospital will now give opioid overdose patients a life-saving drug free of cost.

Advocate Health Care announced Tuesday that they have partnered with the Chicago Recovery Alliance to give free naloxone, or Narcan, emergency kits to people who come into the ER and have overdosed, or are at risk of overdosing. They said the program is aimed at preventing overdose deaths.

Steven Stefani’s twin brother, Matt, overdosed four times. Naloxone saved his life before, but on the fourth time he overdosed, Matt died.

“Imagine if your family member was drowning and you had to wait for the EMTs to get there. How much oxygen is being cut off from their brain at that time?” Stefani said.

Stefani’s brother was only 22 when he died.

“Even then my parents were terrified and they didn't know what to do. We're in a state of trauma. You're not going to research what your best options are,” Stefani said.

Now, if someone comes to Advocate Christ Medical Center's adult or children's hospitals, with anything associated with opioid abuse or an overdose, they will leave with a free naloxone emergency overdose response kit. Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and works quickly.

“After injection, the medication can come to full effect in three to five minutes. It acts very quickly in an emergency situation,” Christopher Boyle, director of pharmacy serves at Advocate Christ Medical Center, said.

Mike Mavrogeorge, the Oak Lawn fire chief, said the department has responded to 85 overdose incidents so far in 2018.

Of those 85 overdose calls the Oak Lawn Fire Department responded to, naloxone was used 62 times, saving 62 lives.

Here's what's in the kit.

  • 3 naloxone vials
  • 3 intramuscular syringes
  • dosing instructions
  • community outreach card with additional resources

Doctors know the kit is not a silver bullet but know it's at least part of addressing the opioid epidemic, and it gives addicts another day to live.

“We are able to touch them and talk to them without stigmatizing them and look at them and give them a tool. It is impossible to send someone who has died to rehab,” Dr. Diana Bottari, Opioid Prevention Task Force, said.

While the drug is a lifesaver, the real work starts when overdose patients try to get and stay clean. The hospital said they will work with patients to help them.