The West Side of Chicago now has 21 newsstands distributing naloxone, commonly known as “Narcan,” which will be available for free. The newsstands were installed in local medical centers, community organizations, churches and other sites that volunteered to house them and keep them stocked with life-saving medication.
The newsstands come as part of a project by the West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force in partnership with healthcare insurance company Cigna. Ashley Kinney, a Cigna employee and Illinois native, proposed the project as part of a yearly company-wide employee contest to select community ambassadors.
Every year, Cigna selects up to 15 employees to launch a program of their choice to improve the health and well-being of people. This year, more than 70,000 projects were proposed and Kinney’s project was one of the 15 finalists. Her project: to install Narcan newsstands in areas with high rates of opioid overdoses to increase the access to and availability of naloxone.
“I just have a lot of people in my family who passed away from opioid overdoses,” Kinney said. She lost her mother, who also lost her parents to opioid overdoses. “We’ve lost several friends that we grew up with, so it’s been something that’s really close to me and that’s why I chose that project.”
She partnered with the West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force, an organization that does “work near and dear to her heart” to bring 21 newsstands to the West Side. The project is a great way to extend the harm reduction work that the West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force already does, said director Lee Rusch. Every month, the task force distributes up to 1,500 doses of free naloxone in areas with high rates of overdoses on the West Side.
Each newsstand can hold up to 100 boxes of Narcan, with each box containing 2 doses. Local partners who volunteered to house them will keep them stocked going forward thanks to the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Access Narcan program, which provides naloxone at no cost to community organizations, hospitals and clinics.
When fully stocked, the 21 newsstands will help distribute 4,200 doses of free naloxone.
Stickers placed on the newsstands explain how to recognize an overdose and instructions to safely administer naloxone. On the newsstands, there is also a QR-code link to a video tutorial to administer naloxone and to the Illinois Helpline, where people who use drugs can find support, including Medicine-Assisted Recovery. To reach the Illinois Helpline, call 833-234-6343 or text “HELP” to 833234.
The newsstands will be installed at sites run by organizations spanning the West Side, such as Prevention Partnership, Inc., Lawndale Christian Health Center, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, Thresholds Health, Phoenix Recovery Services, Chicago Recovering Communities Coalition, Rush University Medical Center, Community Outreach Intervention Program (COIP), Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center and A Safe Haven.