Heading into the new year, Pima County health leaders say they need as many doses of the life-saving naloxone medication as they can get.

Earlier this month, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office confirmed it ordered thousands of units of this drug which can reverse opioid overdoses happening in real time.

KGUN 9 wanted to get a sense of how this will help the Pima County Health Department support a person or group, if someone who has a substance use issue faces an emergency.

We reached out to Mark Person, program manager for PCHD’s mental health and addiction division. Person said, over the course of 2023, demand for naloxone has been so great, they haven’t been able to keep a reliable reserve which they can distribute to their partners.

However, Person said, contacts at the Arizona Department of Health Services made a case to Attorney General Kris Mayes and her staff on behalf of PCHD.

With this supply of 3,000 new kits, Person said, the county’s current naloxone distribution network could keep backup doses, not just for an individual who requests a free box, but for partner clinics, businesses and schools.

“3000 kits is typically gonna last two to three months here in Pima County,” Person said, “but even one month’s supply could be the difference of saving a life here.”

Person said that, unfortunately, another reason PCHD is getting this allocation is that the county is witnessing one of the highest fatal overdose rates for Arizona in 2023.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office confirmed Pima County and four others will receive their first new shipments naloxone in June 2024. The office said these orders are part of the national opioid settlement for pharmaceutical companies to fund prevention programs after years of contributing to the epidemic.

In a newsletter confirming the order, AG Kris Mayes said, “Too many families in our state have been shattered by the opioid epidemic. States like Arizona are holding the pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers that perpetuated this crisis accountable.”

AZAG said Teva Pharmaceutical will provide naloxone to states for up to 10 years as part of the national opioid settlement agreement. Arizona will also receive nearly $85 million in settlement funds over 13 years. In total, county health departments in Arizona will receive 55,442 units of naloxone over the next two years.

Pima County chief medical officer Francisco Garca wrote in Mayes’ newsletter that this shipment will be part of the county’s strategy to tackle the increase of fentanyl in the community.

“The 3,000 doses of (naloxone) we will receive this summer,” Garca said, “are a critical boost to the efforts of our community partners and our Health Department. We are grateful to Attorney General Mayes for making this life-saving drug available.