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UMSL Addiction Science Team gets $6M to help Missouri fight opioid epidemic

In 2021, 2,163 people died from drug overdoses in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

ST. LOUIS — The University of Missouri-St. Louis Addiction Science Team is getting roughly $6 million to expand its statewide training and distribution of opioid overdose reversal medication.

It’s known as naloxone or Narcan.

This money came from the state after it received money from opioid pharmaceutical settlements.

One of the program leaders, UMSL Associate Professor Rachel Winograd said it’s going to at least double the number of doses of naloxone they’re able to hand out and the lives it will hopefully save.

In 2021, 2,163 people died from drug overdoses in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Winograd said there is a need in the state to expand harm reduction training and distribution programs.

“A big chunk of that is naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication that essentially brings people back to life when they are in the process of dying from an overdose, from some type of opioid, which can include heroin, fentanyl, prescription pills,” Winograd said.

Winograd said in addition to getting naloxone they also spend time and money actually giving it to organizations across the state and training them to use it.

“So we buy both the brand name Narcan, which is a nasal spray that like Flonase, that you just spray up your nose or someone else's nose. We also are purchasing the intramuscular variety, which comes with a vial and syringe that you can stick into anyone's big muscle

One of the organizations giving out naloxone on a daily basis is Faith, Hope and Love Worship Center in St. Louis.

“We walk the streets and we go to the places where they are. So sometimes it may be a filling station or maybe a liquor store. We give it to anyone who needs it,” Faith, Hope and Love Worship Center Pastor Pamela Paul said.

Paul says she’s lost too many family members and friends to drug overdoses.

“Fentanyl hasn't stopped and fentanyl has plagued not just inner-city neighborhoods. It's in the rural areas,” Paul said.

She said she has seen how naloxone can turn someone's life around when a random man came into her church just before Christmas.

“He said that he had overdosed 15 times. And all I could do was just stare at him and think, wow. He said, ‘I don't know why I'm here, but I'm not using anymore. I'm pushing forward with my life. They had to save me with Narcan,” Paul said. 

Winograd says an easy saying to remember in a drug overdose situation is A, B, C: administer naloxone, breathe for the person and call 911. 

If you need naloxone or your organization does you can reach out here.

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