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Direct Relief supports frontline health providers with medical products, financial support, and other resources for patient care, addiction prevention, and clinical treatment.
Drug overdoses remain a leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, with more than 130 people dying of opioid-related overdoses every day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can rapidly revive normal breathing in an individual who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid medications.
Since 2017, Direct Relief has distributed more than 2.7 million doses of naloxone to partners nationwide.
Supporting Addiction Prevention and Treatment Across the U.S.
Every day, more than 130 people in the U.S. die of overdoses resulting from opioid use, according to HHS. The misuse of and addiction to opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — present a serious national crisis that affects public health, as well as social and economic welfare. As of 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. was more than $1 trillion per year, accounting for the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Since 2017, Direct Relief has distributed more than 2.7 million doses of naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdose, to organizations across the U.S. through partnerships with Pfizer, Emergent BioSolutions, and Hikma. Shipments to these healthcare providers include needles and syringes donated by Becton Dickinson (BD).
To ensure a comprehensive approach for those most at-risk across the country, Direct Relief also provides financial support to expand behavioral health services through key partnerships with the National Association of Community Health Centers, the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, the Harm Reduction Coalition, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Covid-19 and Impacts of Addiction
Social distancing, disruptions to in-person counseling, and general anxiety related to Covid-19, among other factors, raised concerns of increased overdose deaths during the pandemic and increased demand for naloxone among Direct Relief’s partner network.
At the organization level, interviewees highlighted the immense impact that increased access to naloxone had on programs, enabling organizations to reprioritize resources and incorporate more overdose prevention education and naloxone distribution into programming. Additionally, more organizations reported being able to embrace a harm reduction model to address drug use and addiction, implementing strategies that put individuals at the center of intervention.
At the community level, interviewees highlighted that Direct Relief’s provision of naloxone had saved thousands of lives.
Compassionate Care from Local Providers
Direct Relief supports several types of health providers in their efforts to treat and assist patients impacted by opioid use disorders.
Types of health organizations supported include:
Community Health Centers and Free & Charitable Clinics: Health centers and free and charitable clinics make up the majority of Direct Relief’s network and provide care that is high-quality, accessible, culturally appropriate, and affordable. They are anchor points in their communities and located in medically underserved areas. In addition to providing primary care, these facilities provide health education, behavioral health services, dental care, substance abuse prevention and treatment, child and after-school care, rental assistance programs, mobile health care, access to healthy food, and other critical social services that are responsive to societal factors that play a role in patient health.
The Harm Reduction Coalition: The Harm Reduction Coalition is a national advocacy and capacity-building organization that works to promote the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use. Working with the Harm Reduction Coalition has enabled outreach to populations that may not access health centers, clinics, or public health departments. Direct Relief has worked with the coalition since early 2017 and receives referrals through its network.
National Association for Recovery Residence (NARR)/VOICES Project: Recovery residences provide a safe and healthy living environment for individuals recovering from substance abuse disorders through peer-to-peer recovery support. According to NARR, recovery residences should maintain a supply of naloxone and ensure staff are trained on administering the drug. However, access to naloxone can be cost-prohibitive. In partnership with the Clinton Foundation, NARR, and the VOICES Project, Direct Relief is working to increase access to naloxone for individuals in recovery from substance use disorders across the U.S. As of 2024, the joint initiative was supporting more than 20 organizations across 20 U.S. states with naloxone.
Public Health Departments: Throughout the country, public health departments play a critical role in responding to the opioid epidemic. Health departments use a multifaceted approach to respond to community needs, including through the promotion of monitoring and surveillance activities, education and prevention services, clinical guidance on appropriate opioid prescribing practices, and recovery services.
Community Donations: Because overdoses often happen outside of clinical settings, Direct Relief is working with Emergent BioSolutions to provide K–12 schools, colleges and universities, libraries, and YMCAs with reliable access to Naloxone.
Financial Support for Ongoing Efforts
Direct Relief complements donations of medicine with financial support for clinics and health centers to launch new and expand existing programs. The organization aims to strengthen the capacity of its provider network to address inequities and create patient-based solutions for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse. Funding supports education, outreach, treatment, and mental health services for those with substance use disorders.