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Ohio Turnpike aims to curb opioid overdoses with naloxone availability at service plazas




Photo by NEXT Distro on Unsplash

In a proactive effort to address the ongoing opioid overdose crisis, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has announced the availability of naloxone nasal spray at all 14 service plazas along the 241-mile toll road. The move aims to provide immediate access to this lifesaving medication in the event of a medical emergency caused by an opioid overdose.

Naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan, is a medication that can effectively reverse an opioid overdose. This includes overdoses caused by heroin, illicit fentanyl, and prescription pain medications. By blocking the dangerous effects of opioids on the brain, naloxone restores consciousness and normal breathing patterns.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, prescription opioids account for approximately 25% of all opioid overdose deaths, with nonprescription opioids contributing to the remaining 75% of fatalities. In light of these alarming statistics, the statewide deployment of emergency-access naloxone cabinets at public facilities, including the service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike, is a crucial component of Governor Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative. This initiative aligns with the Ohio Department of Health’s Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), which seeks to expand naloxone access through enhanced distribution efforts.

Governor Mike DeWine emphasized the significance of quick intervention during overdose situations, stating, “In an overdose situation, minutes matter. By providing naloxone at service plazas and to Turnpike employees, we are hoping to save lives and give people a chance to access recovery resources.”

In 2022 alone, the Ohio Department of Health reported a staggering 4,829 deaths resulting from unintentional drug overdoses statewide. This figure is nearly four times greater than the 1,275 fatalities caused by motor vehicle crashes over the same period, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The implementation of naloxone cabinets at the service plazas aims to empower Ohio Turnpike employees and travelers to swiftly locate and administer naloxone in emergency situations, particularly when encountering individuals experiencing an apparent opioid overdose or accidental exposure.

Ferzan Ahmed, executive director of the Ohio Turnpike commission, highlighted the importance of these measures, stating, “Ohio Turnpike employees and travelers who recognize that an individual requires medical assistance from an apparent opioid overdose or is accidentally exposed to an opioid now have the wherewithal to locate and administer naloxone at our service plazas.”

To further enhance the response to emergencies, all Ohio Turnpike foremen and assistant foremen, often the first on the scene, are equipped with naloxone kits in their maintenance vehicles. Moreover, naloxone kits are readily available at all toll plaza interchanges and eight maintenance buildings spanning the 13 counties traversed by the Ohio Turnpike in northern Ohio.

As part of comprehensive training efforts, nearly 800 Ohio Turnpike employees, including frontline maintenance/roadway workers and service plaza staff, have completed the turnpike commission’s online course, “Saving a Life with Naloxone.” This course provides essential instruction on recognizing the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose and administering naloxone effectively.

Common indicators of an opioid overdose include unresponsiveness, slow or no breathing, bluish lips or fingernails, choking or coughing, cold or clammy skin, constricted pupils, and dizziness or disorientation.

It is important to note that naloxone poses no harm if administered to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose. Emergency medical professionals have safely utilized naloxone for over four decades. As a non-controlled drug with no potential for abuse, naloxone serves as a safe and invaluable tool in saving lives and combatting the devastating opioid crisis.

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