SoCal agency distributes opioid overdose kits containing naloxone to homeless care providers

Opioid drug use is at epidemic levels. It's also a major factor driving the surging numbers of homeless people in Los Angeles.

The drug naloxone can help reverse an opioid overdose.

Local experts trained local providers on how to administer it.

A portrait hanging in the offices of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles carries a lot of meaning for the agency's communications director, Heather Edney.

"My brother did that of me when I was in my addiction," she said.

In his painting, Edney's brother painted her alone on the floor getting her fix of heroin.

"I don't think he thought I would be alive," she said, "I didn't think I would still be alive."

It took Edney 14 years to beat her addiction

Homeless Health Care Los Angeles is a group dedicated to helping homeless people battling addiction. Edney is teaching others about the medication that saved her life.

"I overdosed dozens of times and dozens of times and each time it was reversed by naloxone," Edney said.

The agency has handed out about 6,000 overdose kits containing naloxone. The drug is an opioid antagonist that rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Homeless health care providers are learning how to administer the nasal version.

Executive Director Mark Casanova said, "We don't have stigma here at Homeless Health Care L.A. to the users that come here. We treat them with the same respect that I treat my staff."

Peer counselor Gwendolyn Tolbert said, "They're equipped with naloxone so if somebody overdoses in their encampment, they can be there to help."

Since 2006, Homeless Health Care L.A. said these overdose kits have saved about 2,000 lives.

"They've had it in their car and they've been able to save the life of somebody," Casanova said.

Last year, about 750 Californians died from fentanyl-related overdoses; a 72% increase over the previous year.

"By talking to somebody about this, then you have this opportunity to talk about everything else. We want people to stay alive," Edney said.
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