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Philadelphia's "hope dealers" believe FDA Narcan decision will save lives

Philadelphia's "hope dealers" believe FDA Narcan decision will save lives
Philadelphia's "hope dealers" believe FDA Narcan decision will save lives 02:11

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug also known as Narcan, will soon be available over the counter. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the drug to be sold without a prescription.

It's important to note that many pharmacies will give you Narcan now even without a prescription, but those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic say this decision will help them save more lives.

"We're basically spiritual first responders," Kevin Bernard, director of chaplains at Rock Ministries, said.

The street team with Rock Ministries begins each day with a prayer. At G Street and East Allegheny Avenue, they have a front-row seat to Kensington's growing opioid epidemic.

"People go to third-world countries to do ministry," Bernard said. "If you really want to go to a third-world country, come right here to the streets of Kensington. There's nothing more dangerous. There's nothing more scary than these streets."

With nothing more than a bible and Narcan, Rock Ministries go door to door in Bernard's words to offer hope.

Bernard is a retired narcotics cop with the Philadelphia Police Department, but he says he's never seen the drug crisis as bad as it is now.

"What we're here for is to render aid to them in times of crisis and right now, we have a really bad crisis between the shootings and drugs," Bernard said. "It's just never been this way."


Rock Ministries has been doing this work for 20 years. Buddy Osborn is its founder.

"This is ground zero," Osborn said. "We're in a war zone and we need everything we can. We need all hands on deck to save a life."

They have had boxes of Narcan on hand.

Osborn says every week, he and his street team administer 75 to 100 doses all in an effort to save lives. He applauds the FDA's decision because he says the crisis will get worse in the warmer months.

"April, May, June, July, the summer months is off the charts down here," Osborn said. "It's zombie land."

With the FDA approving Narcan for over-the-counter use, it could be available at convenience and grocery stores.

It's not clear how many overdose deaths the decision will prevent, but Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel recently said first responders administer Narcan every day.

"It's not an unusual thing to revive somebody with Narcan," Thiel said. "That's happening all day, every day all around this city."

Meanwhile back at G and Allegheny, "The Rock deals hope," Osborn said.

"We're hope dealers," Osborn said.

The FDA says Narcan will be available over-the-counter beginning this summer.

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