Heroin use is a statewide problem that is getting worse. Recent data indicate heroin and opiates were a factor in one-third of Wisconsin drug deaths. About 163,000 Wisconsinites struggle with this issue. It is likely most people know an opiate or heroin user.

However, the Food and Drug Administration-approved Naloxone is one tool that can reduce the number of fatal overdoses and end these tragedies.

Naloxone reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids. Administered while someone is fighting an overdose, it's the best and likely only chance to save that person.

More needs to be done, and there has been progress. Gov. Scott Walker recently announced that pharmacies can provide the lifesaving Naloxone without a prescription. Initiatives championed by state Rep. John Nygren to address the growing epidemic also are helping.

The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin has helped save more than 4,000 people since 2006, when it began distributing Naloxone to heroin and opiate users. We provide Naloxone for free, along with training on how to administer it. Anyone can contact the center to receive this lifesaving service.

Every community can help get Naloxone to those who could benefit from it.

There are many reminders that regardless of geography, gender or age, opioid abuse and the heroin epidemic have our state in their ugly clutches.

Making Naloxone more accessible is a step in the right direction and a commitment that the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin is ready to make. However, this scourge demands the attention and collective effort from everyone in the state.

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Michael Gifford is president and CEO of AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, the largest HIV health care system in Wisconsin. It has offices in La Crosse, Superior, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Wausau, Appleton, Beloit, Kenosha, Madison and Milwaukee.

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