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Every public city building to stock Narcan

Denise Young

Every public building owned by the city of Rochester would carry a publicly accessible supply of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone under a bill the Rochester City Council is expected to vote on this month.

The bill was introduced by Mayor Malik Evans and Council President Miguel Meléndez and is intended to curb opioid overdose deaths in the city by making the drug more widely available. Among the buildings offering the drug will be City Hall, Neighborhood Service Centers, libraries, police stations, and recreation centers.

The naloxone, which is better known by the brand name Narcan, will be provided by Monroe County at no cost to the city, according to the legislation

“This has been a trying time,” Meléndez said. "Before COVID hit, everyone was talking about the opioid epidemic, and then COVID hit, and everyone seems to have forgotten about this challenge. This will help bring awareness to the fact that we have some of the highest numbers we’ve ever had in terms of overdoses.”

According to the Monroe County Heroin Taskforce, this year 2,425 overdoses have been reported across the county. Of those, 217 were reported as fatal, although the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office has yet to officially determine the cause of death in many of those cases.

The overdoses are concentrated in and around the city of Rochester and the legislation specifically notes racial disparities in the numbers. Between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023, the rate for overdoses per 100,000 people was 124.8 for Black people, 92.2 for Hispanic people, and 70.8 for white people, according to county data.

Monroe County’s Improving Addiction Coordination Team, or IMPACT, stocks Narcan boxes across the county. A total of 420 boxes have been put up since the start of the program in 2020 and each holds up to 12 boxes of naloxone.

The county has placed the boxes in public buildings, as well as in corner stores and community hubs.

Meléndez said the city’s intent is to have the naloxone available for emergencies, much like the defibrillators that have become commonplace in public buildings. But, he added, people will be able to take a supply to go if they want it.

Gino Fanelli covers City Hall. He joined the staff as a reporter in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.