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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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March 24, 2023

Melanie Kretschmer, program assistant with Family Health Center, holds a sign to be placed above the Nalox-ZONE box installed in the entryway of the Family Health Center Marshfield Dental building lobby. (Submitted photo)
Melanie Kretschmer, program assistant with Family Health Center, holds a sign to be placed above the Nalox-ZONE box installed in the entryway of the Family Health Center Marshfield Dental building lobby. (Submitted photo)
2/7/2023 5:25:00 AM
HOPE Consortium installs opioid overdose kits in northern Wisconsin
Vestibule at Rhinelander police station is one location

As the opioid epidemic evolves in Wisconsin, and in an effort to save lives and reduce harm, organizations across the HOPE Consortium service area have partnered with Wisconsin Voices for Recovery to install additional Nalox-ZONE boxes in central and northern Wisconsin.

HOPE Consortium is a collaborative rural model for substance use disorder treatment and recovery support, according to a press release announcing the Nalox-ZONE box project. "Participating organizations share resources to support use of evidenced-based practices and a regional recovery-oriented system of care.

The goal of the Nalox-ZONE Program is to increase access to naloxone, also known as Narcan®, by distributing as many Nalox-ZONE boxes as possible across Wisconsin, supporting both safety and harm reduction efforts to save lives and prevent fatalities due to opioid overdoses, the release states.

The boxes are provided free of charge in Rhinelander, Eagle River and Minocqua as well as a number of other communities across central Wisconsin.

The box locations are listed on the HOPE Consortium website,

One location in the City of Rhinelander is the Rhinelander Police Department vestibule.

The box was installed in August 2022 and is available 24/7. It is unlocked and any or all of the contents of the box are available to anyone that wants it, no questions asked.

"We are excited to partner with Wisconsin Voices of Recovery," said Danielle Luther, senior project manager, at Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc., who facilitates work for the HOPE Consortium. "In August 2021, the first box located in the upper half of Wisconsin was placed in the Wood County Jail lobby. After seeing the success and need, HOPE Consortium partners worked together over the summer of 2022 to find the best locations in their communities."

A Nalox-ZONE box contains doses of naloxone nasal spray, a breathing barrier (for use if CPR is needed), instructions on how to administer naloxone nasal spray (in Spanish and English), and information on local recovery resources. Individuals can take the naloxone from the box for free at these locations.

Participating organizations will receive a notification when the box is opened to ensure the boxes are stocked in a timely manner and to collect data on the number of units of naloxone dispensed at each box site, the release states.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research shows that someone with a substance use disorder who has access to harm reduction services such as syringe service programs are five times more likely to enter treatment and about three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who do not have access.

"People can and do recover," said Ashley Normington, public health strategist at the Wood County Health Department. "Availability to tools that reduce harm and support recovery is the same as access to AEDs and even pharmaceuticals for the management of hypertension or diabetes."

Harm reduction is an approach that emphasizes engaging directly with people who use drugs to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of those served, and offer low-threshold options to accessing substance use disorder treatment and other health care services.

The approach saves lives by being available and accessible in a manner that emphasizes the need for humility and compassion toward people who are using drugs, the release states.

Harm reduction plays a significant role in preventing drug-related deaths and offers access to healthcare, social services, and treatment. These services decrease overdose fatalities, acute life-threatening infections related to unsterile drug injection, and chronic diseases such as HIV/HCV.

"We know that there is use in our communities and while we provide treatment, everyone is in a different spot in their recovery," said Sheila Weix, Director of Substance Abuse Services, Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc. "Some are not ready for change and some will relapse in their recovery process. Having this life saving medication more available will help save lives until individuals are ready for recovery or until they have the tools and resources needed for sustained recovery."

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