Celebrating a Decade of HarborPath – And Focusing on Our Next Challenge

HarborPath’s 10 years of experience distributing free life-saving medication has prepared it to save lives from the opioid epidemic and spread of fentanyl.

Ken Trogdon —

Throughout HarborPath’s existence, our mission has always been to serve unmet needs. When our organization was founded 10 years ago, we began as a safety net for uninsured individuals living with an infectious disease. We developed an effective program to provide underserved patient populations with the necessary outlets to access their medicines at no cost.

By utilizing strategic business, nonprofit and municipal partnerships, HarborPath has distributed over $88 million worth of medication to the uninsured for free over the last decade. Along the way, HarborPath has expanded its programs to include oncology, cystic fibrosis and other chronic conditions. These initiatives helped save lives and serve our neighbors by providing free life-saving medication to those who needed it the most.

Our mission continues to drive us forward to serve our neighbors and communities. In 2022, HarborPath began developing plans to serve one of the most challenging public health challenges our country has seen – the rise of overdose death caused by opioids and fentanyl.

Roughly 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2021. To put this in perspective, that number is higher than deaths related to firearms (48,000) or motor vehicle deaths (45,000) combined.

Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in the United States over the past several years. The CDC reported a 25x jump in overdose deaths over the last year – from 3,000 synthetic opioid-related deaths in 2012 to over 75,000 in the 12-month stretch ending in February 2022.

In 2012, the California Department of Public Health reported only 82 deaths related to fentanyl overdoses. That number increased to over 5,700 in 2021.

The rise in fentanyl-related deaths is complex. The illicit opioid is manufactured in labs and is 50 times more potent than heroin. Illegal drug markets will lace other drugs with fentanyl to increase the potency and make their product both cheaper and more addictive. Therefore, most users of fentanyl-laced drugs are unaware of fentanyl’s presence in the pills they’re taking.

While fentanyl has been found in traditional “street drugs” such as heroin and methamphetamine – it is also making its way into counterfeit pills. Individuals who think they’re purchasing knock-off versions of Xanax, Adderall and pain medications are unknowingly taking deadly amounts of fentanyl. This has been a contributing factor to the concerning rise of overdose deaths among younger Americans.

As HarborPath prepares for 2023, fentanyl-related drug overdoses remain at the top of our minds. An opportunity exists for our organization to utilize its medication distribution network and decade of experience to find innovative solutions that will save lives from drug overdoses. These efforts will focus around Naloxone – a drug that quickly reverses overdoses by blocking the opioid effects from the brain.

Naloxone, also commonly known as Narcan, has proven to be an effective and life-saving tool when fighting the overdose and fentanyl epidemics. It can only be used to save lives when it is widely available and accessible in the midst of an overdose.

HarborPath is working with states to help deliver Naloxone to the country's most vulnerable populations, completely free. Through these established partnerships, HarborPath will deploy Naloxone through nonprofit organizations, county health departments, university health centers and directly to consumers.

Similar to how a defibrillator is strapped to the wall of every high school gymnasium, we are developing programs to provide schools, colleges and other community buildings with emergency Naloxone kits. Other forms of Naloxone distribution include free vending machines and direct-to-consumer mailing options. These approaches will be customizable to meet the needs of each unique community.

As we continue to ramp up our Naloxone distribution, I encourage you to learn more about HarborPath’s efforts by visiting the new Naloxone Program page on our website.