Health workers place excess drinking containers in St. Louis neighborhoods

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Health workers in St. Louis will place dozens of life-saving “naloxboxes” in St. Louis and St. Louis County neighborhoods with high rates of opioid overdoses and few clinics and hospitals.

Clear boxes are designed to be hung on the wall, like a large shoe box and an automated external defibrillator. They contain instructions, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for respiratory obstruction and two doses of the anti-overdose drug naloxone – also known as Narcan.

“We need to bring public health solutions to the community, rather than continuing the models where residents come to us or other health care providers,” said St. Louis Health Director Dr. Matty Hlashwayo Davis.

Missouri registered Over 900 people died Black men and women in 2021 They are dying more than whites. In drug-related deaths, Hlashwayo Davis said.

Health officials say naloxone has saved countless lives. It is one of the most powerful tools used to combat the possession of fentanyl, a powerful opioid that has infiltrated the nation’s drug supply.

The nonprofit PreventEd and Community Health Clinic are enlisting local groups to decide where to hang the 100 boxes at Human Health Centers. They are designed to work like fire extinguishers: readily available, easy to access and free to use in an emergency.

St. Louis area resident Pooja Reddy asked PreventAid to consider installing the boxes when she was a student at Lafayette High School. Reddy served as a youth representative on the PreventEd board and has seen the boxes included in other cities.

Jenny Armbruster, deputy executive director of PreventEd, envisions the boxes being placed in recreation centers, laundromats, gas stations and other public spaces.

In the case of an overdose, speed is very important to respond, she said. Naloxone is available at pharmacies and clinics. Emergency medical teams and law enforcement carry the drug.

But it’s okay if people don’t use it, says Armbruster.

“It’s not enough to sit on a shelf somewhere in a storage room or sit in a pharmacy,” she said. “We know that binge drinking happens in the community, so we need to make sure it’s in the community.”

PreventEd checks most of the boxes in Dutchtown, Spanish Lake, Baden and other St. Louis neighborhoods with high opioid rates. A smaller amount will be sent to parts of north St. Louis County, PreventEd officials said.

Hanging a box on the wall for everyone to see shows people who care about drug addicts, said Rashonda Thornton, a consultant with Living with Purpose, one of the organizations helping to place the boxes around town.

“Individuals who use any substance are always seen as class, weak and underserved,” she said. The boxes feature a photograph that “raises awareness of overdosing, overdosing.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge



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