Federal Government Urges Public Housing Providers To Carry Opioid Overdose Reversal Medications

Opioid overdose reversal medicines like Narcan may soon be as standard-issue as fire extinguishers in affordable and public housing communities.

The federal government urged housing providers to stock drugs like Narcan onsite in a joint letter signed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The letter also called on health systems and public health departments to expand access to these life-saving drugs.

Over-the-counter Narcan was recently made available in pharmacies and grocery stores, and some health plans have made the drug available to members at no cost.

Now, public housing settings, multifamily housing programs, housing counseling offices, and programs for people experiencing homelessness can keep these drugs available.

“Naloxone and other opioid overdose reversal medications should be considered a standard part of the toolkit for ensuring health and safety in HUD programs alongside carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and defibrillators,” the letter read.

The local St. Louis Public Housing Authority has already successfully distributed the drugs to housing residents, the letter highlighted, thanks to combined efforts from a non-profit organization, a federally qualified health center and the local health department. The housing authority also trained residents and property managers to recognize and respond to overdoses.

Grant funding is available for naloxone purchase and distribution through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.)

The letter addressed the stigma associated with opioid overdose reversal drugs, specifying that the drugs are safe, non-addictive and do not produce any mind-altering effects.

“Carrying these medications is no different than carrying an “EpiPen” (a commonly known brand name epinephrine auto-injector) out of concern for someone with life-threatening allergies,” the letter read. “Making it easily accessible in communities is a key aim of our collaborative efforts.”

The letter also specified that no applicants or residents of HUD-assisted housing should be denied or lose housing for the possession or use of opioid overdose reversal medications.