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Overdose-Reversing Drug Saves Hundreds In N.M.

PunchingJudy via flickr CC

A drug called naloxone reversed more than 700 overdoses in New Mexico last year. But hurdles remain for making the drug more widely available. 

Naloxone—brand name Narcan—can be prescribed by pharmacists, not just doctors, and Medicaid covers the cost. In 2014, those big policy changes resulted in a spike of overdose reversals. 

  But Melissa Heinz with the Department of Health said it’s been an uphill battle getting the drug into the hands of people who need it, and her team is chipping away at the problem clinic by clinic. "You have to figure out what the resources are, figure out who’s willing to help, and then you’ve got that one clinic checked off," she said. "And it took two months."

New Mexico has been at or near the top of the CDC’s national list for overdose death rates for years. Looking ahead, proponents are working to make sure law enforcement officers statewide carry naloxone, that it’s available to people getting out of jail in Bernalillo County and that it’s co-prescribed with opioid pain medication.   

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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