RUSH Partnerships Increase Access to Narcan on the West Side

RUSH's Narcan newsstands provide free, no-questions-asked access to the lifesaving drug.
purple newsstand with boxes of narcan inside

Overdoses can happen to anyone using opioids, even those prescribed by a doctor. That’s why RUSH is working to ensure anyone can have access to lifesaving Narcan at no cost, with no questions asked.

Through a partnership with the West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force and the Cigna Ambassador Program, new “Narcan Newsstands” can be found in two locations at RUSH University Medical Center, including the Emergency Department and the Professional Office Building lobby.

Each newsstand holds up to 100 boxes of Narcan kits, free to anyone who wants to keep one on hand. RUSH will continue to stock the newsstands with Narcan, provided through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services Drug Overdose Prevention Program.

narcan newsstand positioned in the hallway within rush's emergency departmentThe initiative has been an immediate success, with over 500 Narcan kits given out within the newstands’ first two weeks on the campus.

“My hope is that RUSH plays its part to get Narcan into the homes, backpacks and purses of the people living in and around Chicago,” said Joshua DeMott, a pharmacist and clinical pharmacy manager assisting with the initiative. “It’s time our community starts to see Narcan as something as critical as having an automated external defibrillator or CPR training.  Let’s save lives first and ask questions later.”

A push to make Narcan more accessible

The latest survey from the Chicago Department of Public Health reported 5,517 opioid-related emergency medical responses in Chicago for the first six months of 2021.

Fortunately, opioid overdoses can be rapidly reversed with opioid blockers like Narcan. And anyone can use Narcan, even without prior medical training or authorization.

Celeste Napier, PhD, is director of RUSH’s Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction and a member of the Heroin Task Force. She saw the newsstands as an opportunity to build on the work RUSH has been doing to increase access to Narcan, especially in areas on the West and South sides with a disproportionate number of overdoses.

“RUSH is a part of the solution to the opioid epidemic we’re seeing in Chicago,” Napier said. “Our campus is serving as a convenient location to make Narcan more accessible. Reversing overdose saves lives and provides an opportunity for the individual to get long-term treatment for the opioid use disorder.”

RUSH set up its DOPP five years ago as a way to distribute Narcan directly to patients without a prescription, and have been giving out and training patients on how to use Narcan ever since.

“The great thing about the newsstand program is that anyone can now get Narcan at RUSH — visitors, families, staff and students can all take kits and arm themselves with the lifesaving medication,” said Jenna Nikolaides, MD, the director of RUSH’s Substance Use Intervention Team.

How to use Narcan

Now that Narcan is available over-the-counter and is free at the RUSH newsstand locations, it’s important to learn how and when to administer the treatment. Narcan is a nasal spray, so it is easy to use and won’t harm a person if it’s administered to someone who doesn’t need it. Treatment instructions are available at each newsstand.

RUSH also offers free courses to teach lifesaving skills — including how to use Narcan — at any location within Chicago. The hourlong course can be taught in Spanish and can be tailored to the needs of a group or community.