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Narcan's over-the-counter availability could help prevent overdose deaths in Milwaukee

NARCAN nasal spray
NARCAN nasal spray

Narcan will be available over the counter starting later this summer. The Federal Drug Administration recently approved making this opioid overdose antidote more widely available. This could help many people throughout Wisconsin, especially here in Milwaukee County where just last week, there were 17 drug-related deaths within a 72-hour period.

Bill Keeton is the Chief Advocacy Officer for Vivent Health. Keeton describes that in Wisconsin, people in need can receive Narcan and naloxone through prevention services and law enforcement agencies.

Chief Advocacy Officer for Vivent Health, Bill Keeton
Chief Advocacy Officer for Vivent Health, Bill Keeton

Keeton details how the new system will positively impact the area.

"The unfortunate reality is that every year over the last five years, we've set a new record in the state of Wisconsin for the number of needless deaths associated with a drug overdose. When I started doing this work almost 20 years ago statewide, we were around 120 deaths. Here, we are 20 years later and we're seeing, you know, almost 1,500 [deaths] statewide," Keeton says. "In 2021, 650 or so folks died related to overdose. It's needless. It doesn't need to happen. There are ways to prevent it."

Keeton also believes that making Narcan widely available will also help fight the stigma of drug use. There are multiple different factors that often contribute to someone becoming addicted to harmful substances like socioeconomic, psychological or psychiatric conditions. Having Narcan available to a similar degree as cold or flu medicine will help combat the stigma and reinforce providing support instead.

Anyone who is in need or knows someone who may be in need of support, Keeton encourages you to contact Vivent Health at (800) 359-9272.


Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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