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Mo. responders struggle to source Narcan as grants dry up

“We need Narcan on the streets and in the jail so, obviously, it’s a concern to us when that supply may be cut off.”


An individual dose of Narcan costs about $75 and many law enforcement agencies rely on grants to purchase batches.

Photo/AP via Leah Willingham

By Quinn Ritzdorf
St. Joseph News-Press

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — With fewer grants and funding available, Narcan, a treatment for opioid overdose, now is harder to come by for local first responders.

With the rise in opioid deaths in the last five years, the St. Joseph Health Department provided free Narcan to law enforcement agencies through the Overdose Data to Action grant. However, it recently was announced that the grant no longer allows for the purchase of harm-reduction measures like Narcan.

“Those grants have since gone away or the availability is less than what we’ve seen in the past,” said Captain Shawn Collie of the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force. “We’ve run into the problem of trying to be able to provide the doses that you’d seen on the streets, in the jails, we’re having trouble trying to locate those under the grants.”

Grant availability dried up at a time when the city was experiencing a high in overdoses, Collie said. In five years, overdose deaths in St. Joseph have more than quadrupled from 7 to 31 so far in 2022, said Dr. Bob Corder, an addiction medicine specialist at The CENTER.

“We’ve got to have first responders with the Narcan because they’re the ones that are going to be on the front line,” Corder said.

An individual dose of Narcan costs about $75. Collie said the Drug Strike Force doesn’t have enough funds to pay market price. It’s why law enforcement agencies rely on these grants.

“Obviously, our goal is to make sure that there’s enough Narcan on the streets and the jail to be able to save a life when it’s needed,” Collie said. “That’s a big concern for us when you start seeing the state not able to obtain those grants any longer to provide it free or relatively cheaper.”

Right now the Drug Strike Force still gets its Narcan for free from the health department, which uses NoMODeaths to find it since the grant ended. Law enforcement agencies also have turned to local nonprofits to refill supplies, like the St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing, which said it hasn’t had a problem accessing Narcan. But if those two options dry up, local first responders may not have the tools to save someone from overdosing.

“We need the Narcan,” Collie said. “We need Narcan on the streets and in the jail so, obviously, it’s a concern to us when that supply may be cut off.”

(c)2022 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)
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