MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (WHO) — A Marshalltown nonprofit is hoping to make the drug used to reverse opioid overdoses more accessible to community members by providing a free Narcan dispensary box.
Naloxone is the medication used to quickly treat an opioid overdose and Narcan is a brand of Naloxone.
Youth and Shelter Services, or YSS, is a nonprofit aimed at helping children in states of crisis. Sherry Hall is an Outreach Addictions Counselor for YSS, and she was inspired by a recent push from two local nonprofits who started this initiative in Iowa.
The Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition and Steps of Hope Iowa collaborated to provide the state’s first Narcan dispensary box in Des Moines in late August.
Hall helped bring this initiative to YSS’ Marshalltown location. According to Hall, rural communities might not have the same access to substance use counselors or other professionals who can help, which is why she said that having this available in Marshalltown is important.
“This medication is intended for family members, coworkers, ministers, people that work at the school, anybody in the community that can have it on hand just in case they’re around someone or they know a family member that may be at risk,” said Hall.
The side of the dispenser box depicts a QR code that describes how the medication is used.
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reported that opioids are the deadliest type of drug and that at least one type of opioid is responsible for over 70% of overdoses.
“Opioid use and subsequent abuse has been a growing trend,” said David Hicks, the Director of Community Engagement for YSS, “Our agency’s core values include innovation and collaboration and this project aligns with that. YSS has expanded our outpatient substance abuse efforts to help the community.”
YSS is also hoping to erase the stigma around substance abuse. Autumn Drewelow is a Mental Health Therapist with YSS. She found that in many cases, people who suffer with their mental health also suffer from substance abuse. She said that this dispenser can help decrease shame and provide help to those in need.
“For a lot of people, ultimately substance abuse is a coping mechanism. And to allow us the ability to treat what they’re currently experiencing and help provide important care for them to be able to cope in other ways. I think that’s what it’s all about,” said Drewelow.
The dispenser is located outside of Marshalltown’s YSS at 22 North Center Street.
Some community members expressed concern about a street camera located close to the box. However, Hall said that the camera doesn’t capture the box and obtaining the medication is fully confidential.
YSS hopes to be able to expand this initiative and provide dispenser boxes at their locations in Boone and Ames as well.
Hall also noted that while Narcan can be used to help treat an overdose, calling 911 is still the most important step someone can take when an individual is overdosing.