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Central Arkansas nonprofit offering training, doses of overdose reversal drug

A Narcan nasal device used to administer naloxone. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
Mary Altaffer
A Narcan nasal device used to administer naloxone.

Money from multi-billion-dollar nationwide settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors is going toward preventing overdose deaths in central Arkansas.

A $14,000 grant to the Little Rock-based Wolfe Street Foundation will fund new training programs on how to use the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also called Narcan. The money comes from the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership, which recently made $16 million in lawsuit settlement funds available for recovery and public health programs.

Wolfe Street Foundation Executive Director Justin Buck says they’ll also distribute two-dose cartons of the drug to as many as 300 people.

“Being able to provide these drugs without a prescription and free of cost is bringing down that barrier. There’s not a cost barrier to saving a life,” Buck said. “We want to make sure we’re a part of that and getting the people the tools that they need and the education they need to recognize when someone’s having a problem and to do something about it there on the spot.”

Aside from saving lives, Buck says he hopes the program helps to build a community-centered support network for those in recovery or currently experiencing opioid addiction. He says training sessions will be taught by his group's certified peer recovery support specialists.

“So not only are we training people how to recognize the signs of overdose, use naloxone to reverse that overdose and what to do once you’ve done that, you’re also talking with an expert in recovery who’s lived it and who can help people in your life get to treatment or get to detox and help them see there’s hope in recovery and a pathway to recovery for them,” Buck said.

He credited the free NARCANsas app as a valuable resource to report naloxone usage and to get help administering it in a time of crisis.

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde worked with the mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock in approving the transfer of 600 doses to the foundation from the Arkansas Naloxone Bank. He called the decision a “no-brainer,” citing the 146 overdose deaths in Pulaski County in 2021.

“It saves lives. In just two to three minutes, naloxone can restore normal breathing to somebody who’s in the middle of an overdose. It’s just an amazing tool… and now, partly because of this program, it’s available to family members and folks like Wolfe Street who are supporting these individuals,” Hyde said.

Hyde says he anticipates more funding from pending opioid settlements to be used for similar public health and addiction recovery efforts. The Wolfe Street Foundation plans to offer naloxone training sessions on the last Saturday of each month, with the first on Jan. 28.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.