UM launches distribution program for anti-overdose drug

Naloxone can be used as nasal spray to stop overdose

MIAMI – The University of Miami is launching a new program in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

UM teamed up Thursday with the Miami Police Department and Human Rights Watch to announce a distribution program for an anti-overdose drug.

"Between 2015 and 2016, 43 percent of the drug-related deaths in Miami-Dade County occurred in the city of Miami," James Bernat, of the Miami Police Department, said.

The drug, called naloxone, can be administered as a nasal spray.

One dose is enough to bring a drug user who is on the brink of an overdose back to life. 

"In just one months' time, with a very limited program, we have already had nine reverses. So that's nine lives of our fellow Miami citizens that have been saved through this program," Dr. Hansel Tookes said.

Thursday's announcement was made at the Idea Exchange, a clinic that allows drug users to exchange old needles for new ones and provides free HIV and hepatitis screenings. 

"Syringe exchanges are one of the primary, most effective and best sites for delivering the naloxone to the people who need it the most," Megan McLemore, of Human Rights Watch, said.

Tookes said more than half of the program's participants have Hepatitis C and nearly 10 percent have HIV.

"This is a place where a drug-addicted person can come and not be judged, not be called names, (but) be accepted as a human being in need," Joy Fishman, whose husband developed naloxone, said.

Fishman is also the mother of an overdose victim.

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