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Free Narcan offered in the Keys, as fentanyl reaches island chain

a box holding individual boxes of narcan nasal spray
Nancy Klingener
/
WLRN
A treatment that can save someone overdosing on opioids is available for free from Guidance Care Center of the Keys locations in Key West, Marathon and Key Largo.

Opioid overdoses have been a major problem in the U.S. and Florida for years. The newer synthetic opioid fentanyl is even more dangerous. And that danger has reached the Florida Keys, where health workers are trying to distribute overdose kits as widely as they can.

Maureen Dunleavy is with the Guidance Care Center. They provide behavioral health services throughout the island chain. And now they're also providing free naloxone, in the nasal spray version called Narcan.

"While law enforcement and police officers and firefighters have been carrying Narcan for while, we've made it available to the regular community," Dunleavy said.

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Dunleavy said the dangerous synthetic opioids showed up first in mainland Florida cities, but have started to reach the island chain.

"I think sometimes it takes longer to get to the Keys. However, we also have less resources because we're somewhat isolated," she said.

Dunleavy said Narcan is easy and safe to administer.

"Even if you're wrong and somebody is not overdosing, you're not going to hurt somebody by giving them Narcan if they're not. But if they are overdosing, it gives them life-saving time," she said.

The Monroe County Coalition — a group that is trying to address substance abuse in the Keys — says there were 17 deaths that law enforcement suspects were linked to overdoses last year. And two in the first two months of this year.

That group is working on a campaign to get Narcan to bars and other establishments in the Keys.

Narcan can be picked up for free at any of the Guidance Care Center offices: 99198 Overseas Highway, Suite 3, in Key Largo, 3000 41st Street Ocean, in Marathon and 1205 Fourth St. in Key West.

The center also has a crisis call and mobile response line that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call (305) 434-7660, and hit option #8.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.