EL PASO, Texas -- - More than 1,400 people died from overdoses involving opioids in Texas in 2017. That figure is less than the national average, but according to Gilberto Perez, a Project Coordinator at Project Encuentro, more deaths can go unreported.
"We're seeing a lot of overdoses happening in our community and deaths due to overdoses, and so we made it a point to save lives," he said.
Project Encuentro runs a dispensary in Central El Paso that offers naloxone, also known as Narcan, to members of the community for free. It's a medication that can save lives during an opioid overdose. Opioids include prescription drugs, heroin and fentanyl.
"You don't need a doctor's prescription to administer or get your hands on this medication," said Perez. "You can walk into our office, and you're able to get this medication and you're able to administer it."
That's because of Senate Bill 1462, which expanded opportunities in Texas for organizations like nonprofits and treatment centers to prescribe the medication. The bill also allowed for prescriptions to be written for the friends and family of individuals who may be at risk of overdose, rather than just the individual alone. New Mexico has a similar law in place.
Project Encuentro not only prescribes the medication, but teaches people how to use it.
"It's not only giving the medication to individuals," said Perez, "but also showing them and training them why it's useful and how to use it."
The medication can be injected into a muscle or taken as a nasal spray. Either way, the effects begin within two minutes.
"It's very important that you administer as soon as you start seeing the person is experiencing an overdose because at that point they're unconscious," said Perez. "It doesn't matter which one you use, they both work as effective."
Project Encuentro receives its supply of naloxone primarily from the Texas Overdose National Initiative (TONI). The organization is a community-based research project aimed at reducing HIV risk, as well as serving other various community needs. The organization is funded by the National Institute of Health.
The dispensary is located at 2524 Montana Avenue. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.