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Northampton Housing Authority Executive Director Cara Leiper (second from left), Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra (middle) and Department of Health and Human Services Director Merridith O’Leary (second from right) cut the ribbon in celebration of more naloxboxes available in the city.
Reminder Publishing photo by Ryan Feyre

NORTHAMPTON — A new partnership in Northampton has officially formed to make overdose-reversal medication more widespread and accessible across the city.

The Northampton Housing Authority has teamed up with the city’s Department of Health and Human Services for a new community Narcan initiative where 31 outdoor and 22 indoor naloxboxes are available at 11 of NHA’s properties, including at the Walter Salvo House, where a ribbon cutting ceremony was conducted on May 2 to celebrate the new initiative. Access to the boxes is free and unrestricted, according to the city.

“The purpose of these naloxboxes is to provide bystanders the tools they need to respond to an overdose,” said DHHS Commissioner Merridith O’Leary, during the ceremony. “It’s a wonderful initiative that will help save lives.”
According to O’Leary, each outdoor naloxbox contains nine boxes of Narcan and each of those boxes have two doses of four-milligram Narcan while each indoor box contains three to four doses of Narcan.

“The naloxboxes improve the capacity of bystanders to save the lives of a victim of an overdose by increasing access to the life-saving drug Narcan,” said O’Leary.

The DHHS has distributed over 9,500 Narcan kits since 2017, according to O’Leary. In 2019, the city installed indoor Narcan boxes in all the city properties and in 2023, the department installed two outdoor naloxboxes: one in Pulaski Park and one near the city’s rail trail.

The new partnership between the DHHS and Northampton Housing Authority means that 400 more doses of Narcan are now available across the city, according to Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra.

“It’s really important that we all normalize the carrying of [Narcan] and recognize how simple it is that we can provide that possibility of life to somebody,” said Sciarra, who added that the DHHS has administered 555 kits throughout Hampshire County over the past year.

According to O’Leary, the naloxboxes are outfitted with personal protective equipment and easy instructions on how to use and administer Narcan.

“The naloxbox is designed to not only increase access of Narcan, but also to reduce stigma and save lives,” O’Leary said.

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there 1,309 confirmed opioid-related deaths from January to September 2023 in Massachusetts. The data shows that the 2022 opioid-related overdose death rate was 9% higher than in 2016 and 3% higher than in 2021.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health data also shows that there were 105 opioid-related incidents in Northampton in 2023, compared to 95 in 2022 and 138 in 2021. This data is part of a dashboard that documents all opioid-related emergency medical service events in Massachusetts, defined as 911 calls in which opioids are involved. Not all events were clinical overdoses and not all were nonfatal.

“Today I stand before you with a glimmer of hope flickering in the darkness that has engulfed far too many lives,” Cara Leiper, the executive director of NHA, said during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “We gather here not just as individuals but as a community touched by the cruel realities of the opioid epidemic and addiction.”
Leiper noted how each of the high-rise NHA properties will have at least one box with Narcan outside and then one at every floor entrance of the elevators. At NHA properties that are not high rises, Leiper said a naloxbox is found outside of the community room and inside of the laundry room at every property.

Taylor McAndrew, the city’s Hampshire HOPE coordinator, said that a map of where naloxboxes are located is available on the Hampshire HOPE website: https://www.hampshirehope.org/. Hampshire HOPE’s mission is to “address the rise in prescription opioid misuse, heroin use, addiction and overdose death in the Hampshire County region, through policy, practice and systems change.”

“What we are saying by installing the naloxboxes is that every single person in our community is deserving of second chances, but also third chances and fourth chances and fifth chances,” McAndrew said. “Everyone matters, and so these boxes allow us to be active bystanders.”

rfeyre@thereminder.com | + posts