Vargas, Campbell Push to Replenish State Narcan Fund, Bring Life-Saving Drug to Merrimack Valley

(File photograph)

Rep. Andy Vargas and Rep. Linda Dean Campbell filed amendments to the proposed House budget to boost the state's Narcan fund. (File photograph)

Local legislators are preparing to debate the House budget next week, advocating for revisions that could bring more of the life-saving drug Narcan to the Merrimack Valley.

Rep. Andy Vargas and Rep. Linda Dean Campbell have filed amendments to the proposed budget that would replenish the now-depleted Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Trust Fund, which local agencies use to purchase Narcan at a subsidized price.

Campbell calls for a $100,000 increase, while Vargas hopes for $350,000.

A boost in funding is a crucial first step in combatting the opioid crisis, said Vargas.

“We can talk all we want about treatment and getting people into the right type of treatment, but if we don’t keep them alive, we don’t even get them to that step,” he told WHAV.

Vargas also hopes to expand the eligibility of local agencies allowed to purchase the drug at a reduced rate instead of market price. Currently, police and fire departments and schools are among the municipal organizations eligible to purchase in bulk through the Department of Public Health.

Nonprofits like Haverhill’s NFI, which assists residents struggling with addiction, are unable to take advantage of the program. The rising drug costs are making it difficult for the agency to do their job, Vargas said.

“We have nonprofits, for example NFI in Haverhill, that are doing the work on the ground, going door-to-door and they need to carry Narcan,” said Vargas. “It’s getting really difficult for them to afford it.”

Addiction recovery and support is also up for debate next week. House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez has already earmarked funds for five new recovery centers to be established across the Commonwealth. Campbell wants at least one of those centers in Essex County.

“We have a lot of traffickers in the area and we desperately need this,” Campbell told WHAV. “Rep. Vargas and I are going to be advocating for this very strongly.”

A provision from Vargas for three of those five centers to be located in gateway cities has backing from the Gateway Cities Caucus, with Senate support.

Said Vargas: “One of the things we’ve heard time after time is that there’s a lack of treatment, beds, and recovery programs in the region, not just in Haverhill. It’s important to do everything we can to address this crisis.”

The budget goes into effect July 1.