To help address the issue of opioid misuse, the Iowa Department of Health of Human Services (HHS) is expanding their initiative to provide naloxone (the opioid overdose reversal medication) to Iowa organizations, businesses and schools, which may be in a position to render aid to a person at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose.

Since February of 2022, HHS has offered eligible organizations and businesses free naloxone nasal spray kits. Now, the program is expanding to include schools. The purpose of this initiative is to equip organizations, businesses and schools, in the event that their employees, agents, or volunteers encounter someone experiencing a suspected opioid overdose.

While the hope is there would never be a need for the use of naloxone, having this medication available as part of a first-aid response could save someone’s life. Eligible organizations, businesses and schools, include but are not limited to: retail/convenience stores; libraries; public or nonpublic schools, community colleges, colleges, universities; restaurants; bars; community or social services organizations; event venues; and mobile service providers.

HHS' State Opioid Response office was recently awarded $9,083,075 per year for two years to provide treatment and recovery programs for an estimated 1,100 people. In addition, the program will provide prevention and harm reduction services to more than 11,000 people. 

Although Iowa is considered a low-incidence state compared to many others, the increases in opioid- related deaths are concerning, with 258 official records of opioid-related deaths in Iowa for 2021, up from 157 deaths in 2019 and 213 deaths in 2020. Synthetic opioids, such as illicit versions of fentanyl, are now involved in the vast majority of opioid-related deaths in Iowa and have increased in all age groups. Increasing instances of these synthetics being detected in combination with other drugs such as stimulants, indicate that some people who think they are taking something other than an opioid are also dying due to contamination of those substances with illicit fentanyl.

The recently announced award comes as a follow-up to previous opioid grants and will allow for continuation and expansion of the prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in the state. The free naloxone program in combination with training available around the state from local grantee organizations ensures that more Iowans have access to this life saving medicine.