St. Louis Group Uses Retired Ambulance To Fight Addiction On The Street

By on March 19, 2019

From St. Louis Public Radio:  A St. Louis nonprofit is sending outreach workers to city streets to dispense life-saving treatment from a newly refurbished ambulance.

The Missouri Network For Opiate Reform and Recovery will use the vehicle to dispense the overdose-reversal drug naloxone to active drug users and those in recovery. It also provides testing for sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV and information about treatment programs.

The mobile unit extends the nonprofit’s reach beyond its headquarters at 4022 S. Broadway.

Many people with addiction “are homeless; many still don’t know we’re here,” said Chad Sabora, the group’s executive director. “The mobile-outreach vehicle will reach people who can’t get to south city for whatever reasons, help to engage them in harm-reduction service and get them into treatment and recovery.”

But it’s important for health workers to provide services for people even before they decide to quit using, Sabora said.

“If we don’t get to them as soon as possible and reach every active user to provide these services, too many people will die, and we need to stop that,” he said.

The nonprofit bought the ambulance for $5,000 raised through donations. It started its rounds last week. On its first day out, the group distributed more than 50 naloxone kits, Sabora said.

Each day, the ambulance will travel to different neighborhoods or homeless camps where it knows people in need gather. Building a rapport with people is important, Sabora said. He wants people to know that police won’t arrest them for using the group’s services.

The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery has built a reputation as an organization people can trust, he said. It was a driving force behind a law that made naloxone available over the counter to Missourians. The van has a large decal of a naloxone molecule on its back window.

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