Four of the Klein’s ShopRite stores pharmacies in Harford County are offering free doses of Narcan nasal spray beginning Wednesday through July 1, or as long as supplies last.
The pilot program is part of an effort by the Harford Local Addictions Authority, a branch of the Health Department of Harford County, to increase access to Narcan, Molly Mraz, a spokesperson for the Harford County Health Department, said.
Narcan, whose generic name is naloxone, reverses the effects of heroin and is administered to people suffering from overdoses.
Butch Henderson, pharmacy director for all nine Klein’s ShopRite stores in the region — including one in Baltimore and two in Baltimore County — said Narcan doses have been available at pharmacies, when in stock, since a standing order was implemented in June 2017 by Maryland Department of Public Health.
Because of its arrangement with the Harford Health Department, the free doses are only available at the four participating Harford County Klein’s ShopRite pharmacies, he said. Other pharmacies charge a fee for the doses.
“Their goal is to increase access. Before they could only get it at the Health Department, now they’ll be able to get it at the health department and ShopRite,” Mraz said. “We want to see if it’s going to work.”
While distribution of Narcan is done at the discretion of the pharmacists at each participating Klein’s store, anyone who is seeking more than two doses will be directed to Wendy Kanely, of the Health Department, who works with the naloxone program, Mraz said. Kanely can be reached at email@example.com.
The four pharmacies participating are stores the health department also has a contract with for its nicotine replacement therapy program.
“So we’re piggybacking on that,” Mraz said.
“Part of what we want to let the public know is that anybody has access to Narcan,” Henderson said.
Pharmacists will try to go through a person’s insurance to see if all or part of a Narcan dose is covered, but some people don’t want to use their insurance because of a perceived stigma to it, according to Henderson.
“Chances are they’re not getting it for themselves, they’re getting it for a family member or neighbor, someone they’re concerned about,” he said.
Ideally, pharmacists still will try to go through insurance first, thereby saving the free doses for people who are either uninsured or underinsured, he said.
Through this program, which is covered through a grant that expires July 1, the county health department has access to more free kits, he said.
“It shouldn’t be an issue of people dying in the county because they don’t have access to Narcan to help these people,” Henderson said. “The question is how are we going to get it to them.”
Harford County had more than 80 fatal opioid related overdoses last year.
There are no restrictions under the program, Henderson emphasized.
“If someone comes in and needs it and doesn’t want to bill their insurance and doesn’t want to pay for it we’re going to give them a free kit,” he said.
The Klein’s ShopRite pharmacies are distributing the nasal spray because it’s the easiest and most cost-effective to administer and train people on how to use.
“What it comes down to is saving lives,” Henderson said. “This is the best chance, this is the best shot if we see someone who has overdosed on an opiate or heroin, we can save their life and give them a second shot. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the only thing you can do.”