St. Louis County Jail first in region to offer Naloxone to inmates at release

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The St. Louis County Jail has a new life-saving tool courtesy of the Steve Rummler HOPE Network. The news comes on International Overdose Awareness Day.

The Minnesota-based non-profit is providing Naloxone kits to the jail. The medication saves lives by rapidly reversing an opioid overdose.

“Through the HOPE network, we are fortunate enough to be able to distribute these kits to people who are at their most vulnerable, when they leave the jail,” said Undersheriff Jason Lukovsky.

Studies have shown people are at higher risk of overdose upon release from incarceration.

The kits can be used within the jail if needed, but most are expected to be distributed to people upon their release from the jail, and to their families and friends.

Anyone enrolled in the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program while at the jail will automatically be offered a kit upon discharge. Jail Administrator Jessica Pete said any inmate can request one. None have gone out yet.

The St. Louis County Jail is the first in the region to offer Naloxone at the point of release. This is expected to help improve accessibility to this life-saving medication, reduce stigma through public identification, and normalize Naloxone as a public health resource.

At an event in front of Duluth City Hall on Wednesday, Recovery Alliance Duluth said this is an amazing development to help those on the journey of recovery, and very valuable to have support like this.

Beth Elstad, co-founder of RAD and in long term recovery herself, added, “We are all called to normalize recovery, and lower barriers to support.”

The number of opioid overdoses in St. Louis County continues to increase – from 151  in 2018, to 398 in 2021. During the first three months of 2022, the Lake Superior Violent Offender Task Force reported 77 overdoses, including 11 fatalities. However, 44 of those lives were saved thanks to the use of Narcan.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted at the St. Louis County Jail in May of 2021 showed that 61% of individuals incarcerated at the St. Louis County jail inmates said they had used heroin/opioids;  57% acknowledged using it daily, and 37% considered themselves addicted to heroin/opioids.

“We know that Naloxone saves lives and we are happy to serve as a Naloxone Access Point for this area,” said Pete. “We see a lot of people at their lowest points, and this is one more way we can help families and friends support their loved one when they leave here. We are grateful to the Steve Rummler HOPE Network for their support to distribute these kits to the people who need them.”

The Steve Rummler HOPE Network is based in St. Paul and works to heighten awareness of the opioid crisis, address its impact on the physical and emotional burdens of addiction and chronic pain, and improve the associated care processes.