Of the 245 lives saved in Lake County in the past three years by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose through the administration of the drug naloxone, more than 80 percent can be attributed to the generosity of a Virginia pharmaceutical company.
Kaleo, a Richmond, Va.-based manufacturer of the EVZIO naloxone auto-injector kit, began donating the life saving drug to those responsible for administering it when the program began in 2014.
Kaleo donated another 1,750 kits as part of its commitment to help Lake County’s opioid initiative February 27 during a news conference at the Lake County Health Department headquarters in Waukegan.
Since naloxone was first placed in the hands of law enforcement officers throughout Lake County, Sheriff Mark Curran said between Christmas Day 2014 and January 31, 245 lives have been saved. He said there were 92 alone last year and 13 in January.
Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said the lifesaving measure does more than prevent a death. He said it creates new nope for the person who ingested too much of an opioid and those close to them. He said 63 people died from overdoses last year calling it “far too many.”
“This gives them another opportunity to get into treatment,” said Lawlor of those whose lives were saved. “It is another chance for them to see a psychiatrist and break the cycle.”
Mark Pfister, the executive director of the Lake County Health Department, said the public-private partnership between the county and Kaleo has made a major difference because it has supplied the medicine to the county at no cost. He said the company has donated more than 10,000 doses.
The EVIZO auto-injector kit is not complicated to use and does not require medical training, according to Mark Herzog, Kaleo’s vice president of corporate affairs. He demonstrated the use of a kit explaining the voice prompts make it easier to use.
“The voice cues keep repeating the directions until you do what it tells you,” said Herzog.
Herzog said the injector kit is placed on the victim’s thigh over clothing. The person giving the injection removes a tab on the package and listens to the voice directions to place the kit on the victim’s thigh over clothing, insert the needle and remove it.
“Five, four, three, two, one, complete,” the mechanical voice tells the applicator assuring the five-second injection is precise.
Curran said one of the reasons law enforcement officers carry naloxone is they are often the first person on the scene before emergency medical services arrive.
“This gets them breathing again,” said Curran. “Then the (people in the) ambulance can take over.”
While the county has received naloxone from other sources, of the 249 saves lives, 199 are directly attributable to EVZIO, according to Hannah Goering, the county’s marketing and communications manager. She said EVZIO played a role in two more along with another antidote, Narcan.
Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said during the news conference the use of naloxone is part of the Lake County Opioid Initiative started to prevent opioid abuse, addiction, overdose, and death.
Nerheim said the initiative is immersed in education and prevention. He said a key component is the Text-A-Tip program developed by Lake Forest based LEAD which lets a person send an anonymous text for help and will quickly get a response from a health care professional. He also started A Way Out in June, 2016, to give people a way to get into treatment at any time.
If a person wants treatment, they can walk into one of 11 designated police stations in Lake County including Lake Forest and Deerfield and be whisked into treatment. He said there is no fear of arrest.
Through January 30, Nerheim said 326 people have sought treatment and 291 have successfully completed it. He said some of the 35 others have decided after going to the police station not to get treatment. He said not everyone is local with participants coming from as far away as Tennessee and Arkansas.
“We had one person drive all the way here from Arkansas for treatment,” said Nerheim.