Free Narcan: Tulalip Pharmacy opens distribution box

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In the midst of a nationwide fentanyl and opioid crisis, the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy is taking action to help save lives and reduce the amount of drug overdose deaths in our area by making Narcan easily accessible to their patients and the public. 

The very first Narcan distribution box at Quil Ceda Village was installed outside the pharmacy earlier this month. Located between their front door and their prescription lock box, the pharmacy is encouraging the community to come and learn it’s whereabouts and pick up a couple doses, to have on-hand in case of an emergency. 

Also referred to by its generic name, Naloxone, the lifesaving drug is administered via a nasal spray and acts quickly to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This project has been a long time in the making as the pharmacy put much research into finding a way to distribute Narcan to the community, that was both cost-effective and easily obtainable. 

“We talked to other tribes, and they have implemented similar solutions to the opioid epidemic on their reservations,” stated Pharmacy Director, Dr. Kelvin Lee. “Narcan is one of those drugs that’s really safe and effective, and you can’t say that for a lot of drugs because they can cause other side effects and can have effect on people who are not on narcotics. This is a really safe drug for both people who are using and are not using. That’s why we want it to be as accessible as possible.” 

Bright purple and reminiscent of newspaper boxes, the new distribution box is hard to miss. There are also large visual instructions on the front of the box, which could prove to be vital information during an overdose situation.

Dr. Lee explained that the pharmacy has always offered free Narcan, however, there were requirements that people would need to fulfill in order to receive the OD-reversing drug, such as providing a name or an address. Now, one can simply pay a visit to the distribution box, open its lid, and take however many they need, no questions asked. 

Said Dr. Lee, “Naloxone has been available for a long time at this pharmacy, but we felt that there are unnecessary obstacles, hurdles, and hoops that people had to jump through to get it and that’s not right. Again, this is a very safe and effective drug. We have always been looking for ways people can get it without being questioned and asked for information or qualifications – we don’t think that’s necessary at all. It’s really important that people can get it when they need it. And it’s important for people to carry on them, in case something does happen.”

Dr. Lee hopes that this is just the first of many distribution boxes on the reservation. In fact, he is inviting any tribal department that is interested in installing a box at their location to give him a call so he can help set it up. He also stated that the pharmacy can both provide the Narcan and replenish the inventory whenever necessary, for those departments that opt for a box.

“When an OD happens, each second really matters, you don’t want people to have to wait or have to drive across to the other side of the reservation for Narcan,” expressed Dr. Lee. “So, I think it’s very important that we have at least several distribution points where people can pick up the Narcan when they need it.” 

 The new distribution box is open to all and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.