As the Garden State and the nation battle a wave of overdose deaths driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a major New Jersey health care provider has teamed up with a nonprofit and a pharmaceutical company to deliver an overdose-reversal drug to patients who appear to be most at risk — free of charge.

Through a pilot program that's currently underway, certain patients at select Hackensack Meridian Health facilities, and their loved ones, are receiving 8 mg doses of Kloxxado (a brand of naloxone) nasal spray before walking out the door.

"It isn't automatic, but it should be. So if they end up needing it, they have it within reach," said Dr. Aakash Shah, chief of addiction medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

The pilot project includes 2,500 doses of Kloxxado for distribution. The drug's manufacturer, HIKMA Pharmaceuticals, delivers it to the nonprofit Dispensary of Hope, which then distributes the medication to HMH sites.

"With 40% of overdoses happening in front of another person, we know we can save lives by engaging in creative strategies to deliver pragmatic results," said Hillary Blackburn, chief pharmacy officer at Dispensary of Hope.

For the first time in years, New Jersey in 2022 saw fewer than 2,900 drug overdose deaths. The fatality count topped 3,000 each year from 2018 through 2021.

Many of today's deaths are linked to a "scourge of fentanyl in the drug supply," according to Shah. Synthetic opioids can be up to 100 times more potent than heroin, and overdoses may require more naloxone for reversal than traditional overdoses.

"What we're finding is that fentanyl is now showing up in all sorts of substances," Shah said. "I've had patients who thought they were ingesting cocaine, but sprinkled in there was a speck or two of fentanyl, and that's more than enough to result in an overdose."

The pilot program launched in May 2023. Free doses of Kloxxado are being distributed at Jersey Shore and Ocean University Medical Center in Brick.

Report a correction 👈 | 👉 Contact our newsroom

LOOK: Most dangerous states to drive in

Stacker used the Federal Highway Administration's 2020 Highway Statistics report to rank states by the fatalities per billion miles traveled. 

The 30 worst rated schools in New Jersey

Here are the 30 lowest-rated schools statewide, based on their 2021-2022 New Jersey School Performance Reports — involving scores for language arts, math and attendance. (For an explanation of how the state calculates the "accountability indicator scores" and overall rating for each school, see page 90 of this reference guide.)

More From 92.7 WOBM