Justin Phillips, creator of OverdoseLifeline and substance use disorder advocate, has a personal connection to overdose. In 2014, her youngest son, Aaron died due to a heroin overdose at 20 years old. After that, Phillips decided to start OverdoseLifeline, to help people and their families not have to go through the same pain she went through.
OverdoseLifeline is a non profit organization aiming to break the stigma around overdosing and provides communities, friends and families of people dealing with addiction or substance abuse disorder with advocacy, education and support.
In 2015, Phillips partnered with Indiana Senator Jim Merritt to create Aaron’s Law, (SEA 406) in honor of her son, that allowed friends and family members of someone dealing with addiction or substance abuse disorder to access Naloxone with a prescription. One year later, an amendment was passed, allowing anybody access to naloxone without a prescription.
Breaking the stigma
Phillips said some people think substance abuse disorder and addiction are freewill and people can stop on their own but in reality, they are diseases that people suffer from.
“These NaloxBoxes are such an amazing contribution to the community because we know that people still suffer from shame and stigma around their substance use disorder and they don’t want to have that interaction with another human being when they need this drug,” Phillips said.
Getting the NaloxBox to Beech Grove
Phillips’ organization sent out letters to different governing bodies around the state, offering an application to have one of the NaloxBoxes be placed in their communities. When Dennis Buckley, the mayor of Beech Grove, got the email from the state department, he immediately responded and included Diana because he wanted one. He said having the box in Beech Grove does a lot for the city.
“We’re no different than any other community in Indiana, we all have the same problems,” Buckley said. “Anytime we can help somebody, we should.”
Diana Hendricks, executive director for the Beech Grove Comprehensive Drug Free Coalition said the coalition’s mission is to collaborate with community partners to provide education and access to these life-saving drugs.
She said anybody can carry Naloxone and people should if they feel comfortable to. She recalled somebody came to the coalitions booth at one of the fairs they attended and told her she was able to help somebody because she had Naloxone in her car.
The location of the NaloxBox was strategically located close to the interstate and close to downtown Beech Grove to make it accessible for people in the community and people passing through.
Since November, Phillips has opened up around 60 other NaloxBoxes around the state. She said the rollout has been slower than they wanted because the small company that produces the boxes is behind on production.
If you drive down Emerson Avenue and see the church where it’s located, you’ll see something different than other NaloxBox locations. The box in Beech Grove has a red house around it with pamphlets of information and a light so it can be seen at night as well. Hendricks said the color and light were added so it is more noticeable to drivers.
Inside the box, there is one four milligram nasal pump of Naloxone, instructions on how to administer it and a card with contact information about getting help. The box will be available to the public all day, every day to make access easy for anyone in need.
“It’s not our job to decide who lives and dies, it’s our job to treat what we see,” Buckley said.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone, or Narcan, is an opiate antidote that reverses an overdose, similar to an EpiPen and its function with allergic reactions.
During an overdose, the person’s opioid receptors attach themselves to the opioid. After the Naloxone is administered, it blocks the opioid and replaces it on the receptors.
According to in.gov, in Marion county since 2014, around 13,340 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) runs have included the administration of Naloxone with the highest number being in May of 2020.
Phillips said the drug isn’t a solution to the opioid crisis but a key piece in keeping people alive long enough for them to receive treatment.
“Nobody can get recovery if they’re dead,” she said.
More information about substance use disorder and addiction, as well as other NaloxBox locations can be found at overdoselifeline.org.