CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Drug overdoses have become an international crisis. The Penington Institute reported the estimated number of people using opioids has gone up 70% from 2010 to 2020.

In Champaign, people want to do something about it and make sure others don’t become part of the statistics.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) wants to make Narcan more accessible. Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day and they’re bringing light to it now.

“Narcan is a medicine that is used for an emergency when someone is experiencing an opioid overdose,” said Joe Trotter, the Harm Reduction Coordinator with CUPHD.

He said when someone is experiencing an overdose, their breathing slows down and they lose consciousness.

“If no intervention is given to them, no help can be given, then they can pass away,” Trotter said.

Les Mennenga, the lead EMS educator with OSF, knows every minute counts.

“If there was a lot of the drug that had been consumed and they went into overdose state right away, you’re looking at probably four to six minutes before they start having some brain damage,” Mennenga said.

He’s training and teaching first responders, so they know how Narcan works. You open the package and spray the medicine in the nose. It’s something anyone can do, not just medical experts.

“We’ve increased the availability of Narcan to the community,” Mennenga said.

It’s in their ambulances and they leave it with patients while on calls.

Trotter has the reversal drug available at the health department.

“We need to make sure everybody is ready for this emergency,” Trotter said. “You never know when you’re going to need to use it.

In 2022, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 3,261 people died from an opioid overdose in the state. They track the numbers county-by-county with this dashboard.

The health department is making sure that number goes down.

“I want people to be aware that we have Narcan, we want to put it in their hands,” he said. “We don’t want to have any barriers for somebody to be able to get Narcan.”

CUPHD is passing out free Narcan kits on Thursday at their building at 201 West Kenyon Road in Champaign. The team will distribute them from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. toward the back of the building by the small shed.