SAN ANTONIO – It’s a subject KSAT has reported on many times -- the use of naloxone, also known as Narcan.
The medication that comes in a nasal spray or injection, can reverse an active opioid overdose.
Part of its ability to save lives depends on people knowing how to use it.
That’s why the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing has been training people all over the state.
In 2018 the nursing school got funding from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to distribute naloxone and also provide overdose prevention education.
That training started in person, but COVID forced the sessions to become virtual.
What was first considered a drawback has now allowed far more people to participate.
“Communities we’ve not been able to reach in the past. The rural communities, some of the tribal nation. We’ve reached a lot of counties that have what’s considered to be mental health care provider shortage areas,” said UT Health San Antonio Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Cleveland.
Dr. Cleveland leads the training, which she said is crucial for those rural counties where EMS may have to travel long distances to respond.
“When we’re talking about an overdose and somebody who’s not breathing, we may only have a minute or two to respond to that before permanent brain damage occurs. And then cardiac failure follows,” she said.
The program has sent Narcan to 73 percent of all Texas counties.
The virtual training sessions alone have now reached 45 percent of all Texas counties, which includes every county that had previously reported opioid overdose deaths.
“Now we regularly have 300 or 400 people in a training, and so it’s really expanded our reach a lot,” Cleveland said.
Those participants are not just medical professionals. Many are from schools.
“A 500 percent increase over the past year of folks who work in schools have been engaging in our training,” Cleveland said.
There are also members of the general public taking the training and ordering Narcan, so they can be prepared.
At the nursing school, there are piles of boxes filled with Narcan that are sent to those individuals who request it.
Cleveland explained that the bigger orders for the schools and medical centers are fulfilled by the drug company itself.
She hopes to break the stigma that keeps people from carrying Narcan and said you can have it anonymously sent to your home or work.
The training shows how easy it is to use Narcan. Most of the medication distributed is the nasal spray, which can be applied just like a common allergy nasal spray.
“Try to wake the person first. If they don’t respond, administer a dose of the nasal oxygen in one of the nostrils. It may take a couple of minutes for somebody to respond and begin to wake up. There’s always the possibility to do some rescue breathing,” Cleveland said.
The boxes of Narcan come with two doses, and Cleveland said it’s important to carry both.
“That’s just in case you have to administer a second dose after that 2 to 3 minutes of waiting,” she said.
The training is offered in both English and Spanish.