It is no secret that all of our cities in Kentucky are battling the opioid epidemic. Civic organizations, churches and nonprofits look to our local leaders for solutions every day. Across the country, many public agencies are participating in harm reduction programs and training employees to properly react to opioid overdoses.
Nonprofits, social services, and other public agencies may have contact with a person who is suffering or has suffered from an opioid overdose. Nowhere is this more apparent than at public libraries, which have experienced an increase in patrons that use illicit drugs who later suffer from overdoses. Over the past few years, libraries across the country have responded to the opioid epidemic by training librarians to administer Naloxone or persons suffering from overdoses. But in Kentucky, this was not possible until last year.
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that reverses the effects of opioids. This medication has saved countless lives from opioid overdose deaths. Prior to June 27, 2019, Naloxone was available only to first responders, school officials, and medical professionals in Kentucky. It was not legal for other persons to possess or administer.
The 2019 Kentucky General Assembly amended the law to allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone to “any person or agency who provides training on the mechanism and circumstances for the administration of Naloxone to the public as part of a harm reduction program, regardless of whom the ultimate user of the Naloxone may be,” KRS 217.186(7). Since this amendment passed in 2019, local health departments and nonprofit groups have created harm reduction programs that include offering free Naloxone kits to the public. The only requirement to obtain a kit under one of these programs is that a recipient must receive training on how to administer Naloxone. Training varies in length from 20 minutes to over an hour, depending upon whether first-aid training is included with the medication administration training. Persons participating in one of these programs are generally immune from criminal and civil liability for administering Naloxone to a person they believe is overdosing on an opiod.
Most civilian city employees will not encounter the victim of an overdose in a city building. However, churches, soup kitchens, and other nonprofit agencies look to our local leaders for resources as we battle together to fight opioid addiction and deaths. Your local health dept may be able to assist you, or you may contact the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition.