CAHMA welcomes expanded access to naloxone across the country

CAHMA, as the originator and pioneer of community naloxone programs in Australia, applauds the Federal Department of Health decision to extend the provision of free naloxone to all Australian states and territories.

19.6 million dollars in additional funding will support this initiative over the next four years, with the funding taking effect from July 1, 2022. This is an extension of the successful federally funded pilot program which has supplied free take-home naloxone in NSW, South Australia and Western Australia since 2019. 

Naloxone (aka Narcan™) is an effective emergency treatment that is used to reverse opioid overdose. Many Australian lives have been saved through the timely administration of take-home naloxone. CAHMA pioneered Australia’s first take home naloxone program in 2012 and since then, organisations across the country have built on the model developed by CAHMA to provide naloxone kits and naloxone training to the community across Australia.  

There are 1000 overdose deaths every year in Australia1 : a similar number to Australia’s annual road toll. Within Canberra, Opioid overdose accounts for approximately 20 deaths annually2. CAHMA welcomes the decision to make naloxone freely and readily available to anyone who may need it, in the hope of dramatically reducing this tragic loss of life. 

Since 2012 CAHMA has supplied over 3500 kits of take-home naloxone to Canberrans, saving many lives that would have otherwise been lost to opioid overdose. CAHMA’s naloxone program provides education sessions where participants are shown how to identify and treat opioid overdose by using naloxone and other standard first aid procedures. Participants go home with a nasal naloxone kit to use within the community.  

Take home naloxone is an example of the fantastic outcomes that can be achieved through the prioritisation and provision of harm reduction strategies. CAHMA’s naloxone program has demonstrated that peer education programs can improve the health and wellbeing of some of society’s more marginalised members.  

It is still unclear how the extended federal pilot will link in with existing take home naloxone programs, and what mechanisms are in place to support states and territories that were not included in the initial naloxone pilot. CAHMA remains cautiously optimistic that the federal government’s announcement will be followed up with a robust peer consultation process, and will further increase and complement the significant supply of take-home naloxone that CAHMA currently provides to Canberrans. 

Written by Mitch Lamb

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