By: Andrew Joseph

BALTIMORE — After two decades of sending a needle exchange van around this city, officials here last year started doing something new. They wouldn’t just hand out clean syringes; they would distribute the antidote to the opioid overdoses ravaging local communities.

When the van rolls through Baltimore these days, a member of the city’s health department teaches newcomers how to deliver naloxone, the life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and gives them a free kit containing two doses.

Similar scenes are playing out at recovery centers, school orientations, and town meetings around the country as communities try to prevent fatal opioid overdoses, which quadrupled in the past decade and a half. Once a tool found mainly in ambulance and emergency departments, naloxone is increasingly being offered to the masses without prescriptions. Some advocates liken knowing how to use naloxone to knowing how to perform CPR, granting someone the opportunity to save another’s life.

“It’s been this gradual process to expand the presence of this drug in the community so it can be available when needed,” said Scott Burris, the director of the Center for Health Law, Policy, and Practice at Temple Law School.

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