In the wake of a rising death toll in the opioid overdose epidemic, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a plan to make the overdose antidote, naloxone, more readily accessible.
Naloxone, an opioid antagonist also known under the brand name Narcan, will be available for around $50 over the counter at Rite Aid and independent drug stores in the city, according to Newsday.
De Blasio and other city officials announced the change in a press conference on Monday.
According to city data, opioid-related overdose deaths have increased by 56% since 2010. “The deaths are what we all struggle to avoid … but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said de Blasio. “For every death, there are literally hundreds who struggle with addiction.”
City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett echoed that sentiment. “In order to recover, you need to stay alive,” she said.
Technically, naloxone is still a prescription medication, but because Bassett announced a citywide standing order to dispense the drug—something Baltimore did earlier this year—it is available over the counter.
Last year, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announced that he planned to have the city’s entire force trained and equipped with naloxone. And New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a statewide program to fund more naloxone for police departments statewide.
In addition to making naloxone more available to the public, the city will spend $750,000 to distribute naloxone kits to New York City drug prevention programs. On a similar note, the city announced plans to train 1,000 more medical professionals to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that is used for opioid replacement therapy.
At the press conference, 21-year-old James Brenker of Staten Island spoke in support of the initiative. He said that his own life was saved by naloxone when he overdosed on heroin and oxycodone.
“I felt like no one cared. I know a lot of addicts feel that way,” he said.
This story was originally published on The Fix.