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Naloxone boxes to be placed in Downtown Cincinnati in new bid to stem overdose deaths

Cincinnati Enquirer logo Cincinnati Enquirer 2/4/2019 Terry DeMio
AntiOD provides naloxone within reach. A UC associate professor is leading the effort to get these out in Downtown Cincinnati. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. AntiOD provides naloxone within reach. A UC associate professor is leading the effort to get these out in Downtown Cincinnati.

Ever see a life-saving defibrillator in a case on a wall? Surely you've seen a fire extinguisher. Soon, you might be able to add this life-saving device to the list: a naloxone box.

The simple devices called AntiOD boxes, containing two doses of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone and easy instructions in how to use the nasal spray will appear at various location in Downtown Cincinnati, possibly beginning as soon as this spring.

The new effort to prevent overdose deaths is the creation of Claudia Rebola, graduate studies coordinator at the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, and her students. 

It's more than a box with medicine inside to combat overdose deaths, she said. "It's a way to empower people to take a role" in the opioid crisis.

Rebola is no newbie to the idea. She helped start a similar program in Rhode Island.

A Brown University medical professor and emergency medical doctor, Geoff Capraro,  who'd seen a lot of overdoses came up with the idea to make naloxone more accessible. Capraro worked with Rebola, who was at the time with the Rhode Island School of Design. The Rhode Island Health Department and Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and hospitals provided two $5,000 mini-grants for the project, officials said.

The first NaloxBox, as it's called there, was fixed to a wall in Rhode Island in the summer of 2017. Now there are about 55, Rebola said.

Naloxone from the boxes has been used at least a dozen times to respond to overdoses, said Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the public health department.

The boxes are in libraries and health buildings, homeless shelters and government offices, including housing authorities and city halls. You can find them on stairwells, behind main desks, in hallways, in community rooms, in lobbies, near mailboxes and next to copy machines.

In 2017, Rhode Island was among the top 10 states in the country for overdose deaths.

In 2017, Ohio ranked second.

a group of people on a sidewalk: Paramedics give naloxone to an overdosing man in Piatt Park in Cincinnati during the summer of 2017. © Liz Dufour/The Enquirer Paramedics give naloxone to an overdosing man in Piatt Park in Cincinnati during the summer of 2017.

Rebola was shocked when she heard of the depth of the overdose problem here.

"I couldn't believe it. It touched my heart," she said. She felt compelled to find a way the public could step up and help save lives.

She received a grant for $5,000 from UC for the first waves of naloxone boxes. Rebola said that UC's 1819 Innovation Hub is supporting further development of the program, which includes an educational campaign for the public.

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. is partnering with Rebola in getting the boxes out, and outreach worker Chico Lockhart is scouting possible locations for up to 36 boxes in the general Downtown area.

"As an outreach worker, I feel, why wouldn't we want to work together to save lives?" Lockhart said.

In Rhode Island, the NaloxBox program has helped make the general public part of the effort to use the life-saving medication, Wendelken said, and that was a goal from the start.

"We really want to kind of bring this out of the shadows," he said.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Naloxone boxes to be placed in Downtown Cincinnati in new bid to stem overdose deaths

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