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Advocate offering free naloxone kits to ER patients

Advocate offering free naloxone kits to ER patients

Congressmen Bill Foster (left) with Christopher Boyle, the director of the Advocate Christ Medical Center, and Dr. Mila Felder, an Advocate emergency room physician. Credit: Daniel I. Dorfman for Health News Illinois

Advocate Health Care has started offering free naloxone kits at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn for patients experiencing an opioid overdose or who struggle with an opioid addiction.

Advocate believes it is the first system in the Chicago area providing the kits without a charge. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported approximately 2,000 deaths in 2016 due to opioid-related overdoses.

“This is a chronic relapsing condition and we need to look at it as such,” Dr. Diana Bottari, chairwoman of Advocate’s Health Care Opioid Prevention Task Force, said at a news conference Tuesday highlighting the initiative. “We need to give them the tools so that they survive and be active members and find rehabilitation. I think destigmatizing this for what it is as a medical condition is one of the first steps in helping getting the help they need.”

As part of the program that launched Sept. 13, emergency room patients will receive three naloxone vials, three syringes, instructions for proper dosage and a community outreach card at no charge.

“We have a captive audience when these patients are in our ER. We can talk to them without stigmatizing them,” Bottari added. “It is impossible to send somebody who has died to rehab. This is giving them another day to live and another possibility to get to rehab.”

The program is a collaboration with the Chicago Recovery Alliance, a social service agency.

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, said he was not prepared when he was first elected for the large numbers of stories he heard from family members who lost relatives to opioids.

“Confronting this problem is something that has united Democrats and Republicans because this epidemic is claiming lives in every state and every district and is truly a challenge we can only meet if we work together,” Foster said.

Advocate is piloting the program at its Oak Lawn hospitals, which host the system’s busiest emergency rooms. It may add other hospitals down the road, according to Bottari.

– Daniel I. Dorfman for Health News Illinois

Illinois Health News is a nonpartisan, independent news service covering the Illinois healthcare beat. Sign up for a free trial to the newsletter here.

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