Naloxone, the active ingredient in NARCAN® Nasal Spray, reverses the effects of opioid overdose in 2 to 3 minutes.
Naloxone, the active ingredient in NARCAN® Nasal Spray, reverses the effects of opioid overdose in two to three minutes. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Inmates from the Bexar County Adult Detention Center will get Narcan, the nasal spray version of Naloxone, a medication that can temporarily stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to carry with them upon their release.

Representatives from the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing and The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office announced the new program on Tuesday, citing evidence that people being released from incarceration are 40 times more likely to die from overdose in the first two weeks after leaving jail than members of the general public.

“Knowing these facts, the aim of this program is to provide Narcan and education to inmates and their families to prevent overdose deaths,” Lisa Cleveland, program leader and associate professor of nursing, said in a statement. “This program is just one example of Bexar County’s willingness to be forward-thinking in addressing the current U.S. opioid crisis.”

The program, which is the first of its kind in Texas, is funded by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission through a grant received from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant is part of a $17.5 million contract awarded in March to expand naloxone use statewide.

Cleveland, who chairs the Joint Opioid Task Force, a City/County conglomeration of public health experts, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, first responders, policymakers, public school district representatives, and social services agencies whose goal is to create effective strategies to the opioid crisis on a local level.

Since September 2018, Cleveland has been training local first responders and concerned citizens on how to administer Narcan, which saved the lives of 1,869 people in Bexar County in 2017, according to a Task Force report.

“We are grateful to [Cleveland] and her team for their efforts and for working with the [Sherriff’s Office] to help us activate the program,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a statement. “This is one more way Bexar County is working to assure the safety of the community.”

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center

Bexar County has the third-highest per-capita rate of overdose deaths in Texas, with 108 fatal overdoses in 2015, according to County officials.

The grant provides members of the community who are trained to give Narcan and want to have it on hand two free doses and organizations can order up to 108 boxes of Narcan per month for free; the drug typically retails for $125.

“It is very important to us that the Texas [Health and Human Services Department] that we get Narcan and training to all Texans who may be at-risk for prescription or illicit opioid abuse,” Salazar said. “It will save lives.”

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.