For the past two years, Callie Crow and her nonprofit organization, Drew’s 27 Chains, have relied on the federally-funded More Narcan Please program, managed by the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, for supplies of free Narcan. However, funding for the program dried up in January, less than halfway through the fiscal year.
Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, is an FDA-approved prescription drug that blocks the effect of opioids and reverses an overdose.
After her son Drew passed away in June 2020 from an opioid overdose, Crow founded Drew’s 27 Chains to help distribute the Narcan kits and train people on how to use them to save a life.
The nonprofit’s initial event was a disc golf charity where baskets were made of chains, hence the name Drew’s 27 Chains. The 27 honors Drew’s age at the time of his passing.
In late March, Crow, a paramedic for 27 years, demonstrated how to save a life with a nasal spray container in front of eight officers at the Caddo Mills Police Department, providing the officers with twelve Narcan kits. She explained that this visit would be her second-to-last training because of the loss of funding for the program.
Without funding, the free training and supplies that Crow and other organizations like hers typically offer to first responders and law enforcement officers throughout the state have been placed on hold for months.
“Harm-reduction” organizations and small-town first responder agencies often lack the funds to purchase the medication on their own, as a two-dose kit could cost as much as $125.
The amount of federal funding the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides to the state’s Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) determines how much is given to the Texas Targeted Opioid Response (TTOR) program each year. The More Narcan Please program is then granted a portion of that money.
The naloxone distribution program acquired $4.65 million for the 2022 fiscal year, which started in September last year. Just under $6 million had been given to it the year before.
The $4.65 million was expected to last the entire year. But by January, the initiative had used all of its funding, and it announced on its website that it was no longer receiving naloxone requests.
Demand for the drug by health departments, first responders, health systems, and others has risen as opioid overdoses continue to increase nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control announced in May that 107,000 people died from overdoses in 2021, up 15% from the previous year.
“In the meantime, HHSC is working with other TTOR contractors to purchase and distribute naloxone through their programs,” Joy Alonzo, co-chair of the Opioid Task Force at Texas A&M University in College Station, said in an email. “We have also identified funds that will be added to the current budget by the end of this summer.”
The More Narcan Please campaign also requests that organizations that have received naloxone but have not used it send it back to the state. These requests resulted in 700 naloxone kits by April, according to Ty Bishop, a Health and Human Services spokesperson.