By NATE KING
Packaging labels prevented Saline County Health Department officials from distributing about $30,000 worth of naloxone.
In September, the Saline County Health Department received 240 boxes containing naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray devices, the drug to reverse opioid overdoses.
Who was the sender of this large shipment of life-saving medication? Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Saline County Health Director Jason Tiller said his staff was notified just two days before receiving the shipment.
“We got (the naloxone), and there was maybe a day that this could come,” Tiller said. “So it wasn’t 100%, a total surprise. When we first got it, we were excited because then it’s like, ‘How are we going to get this out into the community?’
In total, six counties received shipments of naloxone in September. According to Tiller, KDHE determined the amount of doses shipped to each county based on data showing higher rates of illegal opioid use.
“The group that was actually in charge of this at the KDHE ended up selecting six counties, I think using some information from maybe a year or two earlier,” Tiller said. “There were a lot of steps along the way that could probably have been done differently. But as we get older, this is where we are.”
According to KDHE, from 2012 to 2021, there have been 91 drug poisoning deaths in Saline County resulting from drug overdose. On average, this equates to 17.55 deaths per 100,000 people, per year over the 10 years.
KDHE published an assessment in September 2022 that found, of the 105 counties in Kansas, 21 were found to have “the highest relative vulnerability” to opioid overdose deaths.
Saline County made this list, as did Sedgwick, Reno, Shawnee, Douglas and Sumner counties.
Tiller’s plans to distribute naloxone throughout Saline County were soon put on temporary hold due to what he described as red tape and KDHE’s lack of planning.
The naloxone devices delivered to the Saline County Health Department are not labeled as over-the-counter; they are labeled as prescription only or Rx only.
According to Tiller, state statutes dictate how and who can distribute Rx-only naloxone. But, he said, the two types of medication are otherwise the same outside of the packaging.
“It’s the same medication. For example, I can go to CVS or another pharmacy where they have Naloxone OTC, but it’s listed as OTC or over the counter,” Tiller said. “There are different laws and regulations that pertain to Rx-only medications. That prevents us from being able to be right, which is a real pain.”
Three days after SCHD received the shipment, KDHE emailed the health directors for the six counties that received naloxone, telling them not to distribute the medication until they were given more guidance.
“The KDHE is like any state organization. They’re big and sometimes you have disconnects between different departments and divisions,” Tiller said.
For about a month, Tiller asked KDHE for a solution to the phone calls and emails.
“Honestly, it was probably less conversation and more like me harassing them if they even realized it,” Tiller said.
Eventually, KDHE hosted a webinar on October 17 to tell health directors that their plan was to distribute naloxone to first responders.
From November 14 all 240 boxes were deployed to the first responder groups.
According to Anabel Fauto, Saline County Health Department Health Educator, Saline County EMS, and the Saline Police Department received 80 boxes each and the Saline County Sheriff’s Office received 60 boxes.
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