CalOptima launches campaign delivering free naloxone, a first-of-its-kind accomplishment for a public health plan

Attempting to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in Orange County, California, CalOptima Health is beginning a $15 million campaign to distribute free naloxone to members.

The initiative, called Drive to Revive, will be delivered free of cost, and it is the first public health plan in the nation to directly distribute the medication. The first distribution took place during the first weekend of December.

“The fentanyl and opioid overdose epidemic can affect anyone in our community. Naloxone can make all the difference in an emergency situation just like a defibrillator for cardiac arrest or epinephrine for an allergic reaction,” said Richard Pitts, CalOptima Health’s chief medical officer, in a statement. “Our free distribution program enables CalOptima Health to put this lifesaving medicine in members’ hands when seconds count to save someone’s life.”

Opioid overdoses nearly tripled between 2017 and 2021, according to data from the Orange County Health Care Agency in a recent press release. In 2022, more than 100,000 deaths occurred in the U.S.

Naloxone is administrated as a nasal spray mist that saves thousands of lives a year. Demand has increased for the drug, as Medicaid prescriptions increased from 3,328 in 2010 to 265,388 in 2018, a report from Urban Institute showed.

A White House-led strategy report in 2022 called for ensuring the Department of Health and Human Services has enough naloxone to address bottlenecks and other supply chain concerns.

CalOptima is a county-organized health system for nearly 970,000 members and a network of more than 10,300 primary care doctors and specialists and 44 acute and rehab hospitals.