Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Outside the clinic walls: making Narcan accessible to everyone

Miami, FL, USA - March 23, 2024: Passing out Narcan nasal spray at the Ultra Music Festival Miami.


Addiction is a chronic disease that requires a combined approach of medical treatment and community engagement. Clinicians must work to educate their community about addiction and provide them with resources like Narcan.

For years, I received phone calls from a cousin experiencing financial hardship due to addiction. While these calls were often stressful, they served as a lifeline, confirming they were still alive. My cousin’s death in 2021, following a period of apparent improvement, underscored the chronic nature of addiction.

This experience informs my approach to treating addictionas a chronic disease requiring management, therapeutic targets, and recognition of its long-term nature. It also must be paired with robust community engagement.

Engaging diverse communities

Community engagement efforts should focus on diverse populations, promoting understanding of addiction and mitigating implicit biases surrounding the disease. Resource allocation, particularly for medications like naloxone (Narcan), is crucial.

In my own practice, my organization Medicine for the Greater Good, in partnership with local health departments and non-profits like Love in the Trenches, has acquired hundreds of doses of Narcan. Community demonstrations have educated residents on its use and provided the medication.

Initially skeptical about community interest, the program has seen participation from 34 communities across Maryland, including faith-based organizations, schools, and neighborhood town halls. We train citizens on Narcan use and educate them about support groups available to them. Communities once paralyzed by the opioid epidemic hopefully now feel empowered to save lives and know how to connect friends and family with resources for ongoing management.

My cousin’s number remains on my phone and inspires me to continue efforts to prevent similar tragedies. My cousin’s story reflects the struggles of countless families ravaged by addiction. However, through community engagement, we can make a difference. Here are some practical tips to get started:

1. Identify community partners.

Reach out to local non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and neighborhood associations.

2. Focus on education.

Organize workshops and presentations to promote understanding of addiction as a chronic disease.

3. Advocate for Narcan access.

Lobby local politicians to ensure widespread availability of this life-saving medication. Partner with organizations that provide free or low-cost Narcan training.

4. Build support networks.

Help individuals connect with addiction treatment programs and support groups. Organize community events that foster a sense of shared purpose and hope.

5. Start small, scale up.

Begin with a pilot program in a single neighborhood and then expand.



This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.