PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Defibrillator boxes have become commonplace in public places as a way to help people having a heart attack. Now, a group in Rhode Island has come up with a similar idea for a different medical crisis: drug overdoses.
The NaloxBox is meant to give bystanders in public areas easy and quick access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. Just as with a defibrillator box, the NaloxBox puts a lifesaving intervention in the hands of a layperson.
“That person could have no training at all,” said Geoff Capraro, an emergency room doctor and faculty member at Brown University’s medical school. “I wanted to give people the ability to help their neighbor.”
Capraro worked with a group of professors and students at Rhode Island School of Design to design and build the box, and the first were installed Friday in Amos House, which provides recovery services, shelter and other programs to help people struggling with addictions.
More than 30 are set to be installed in the coming weeks at around a dozen social services organizations around Providence, said Claudia Rebola, an industrial design professor at RISD who worked on the project.
Amos House CEO Eileen Hayes said her staff has seen many overdoses, which are part of the process of recovery. The benefits of the NaloxBox are twofold, she said. It will provide quick access to naloxone, and it also sends a clear message to people being treated for addictions that they have to think about keeping themselves safe.
“We’re talking about life and death here, and we have had multiple situations and been affected by just too many deaths. We have to do whatever we can to keep people safe,” she said.
While naloxone — which can be administered via nasal spray under the brand name Narcan — is available without a doctor’s prescription in Rhode Island and other states, that requires a person to go into a pharmacy to get a dose, then carry it around with them.
If they overdose, they can’t help themselves.
That model is “insufficient,” Capraro said. The boxes provide what he calls a “public capacity.”
“We’re giving capacity that doesn’t exist,” he said.
The box holds two naloxone kits with two doses each and directions on how to use them, as well as a breathing mask to help a rescuer administer CPR. Also inside is information on how people can get their own naloxone or get treatment. The box can hold either the shot or spray form of naloxone, and opens easily with a Velcro-type strap.
When fully installed and connected to power, it will alert the owner via text message whenever it has been opened. That way, they can check it and refill it when needed. The boxes can be made for around $100 each, Capraro said.
Rebola expects the first iteration of the box will need some design changes, but they are interested for now to see how it’s used. Their hope is to eventually spread them further: to clubs, universities and other public areas.
Capraro has suggested facilities installing the box put it next to their defibrillator. He envisions some version of NaloxBox someday being one of three life-saving interventions people will see on a wall for good Samaritans to use: the defibrillator, the fire extinguisher and naloxone.