TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - More than a hundred recovering drug addicts in Tucson carry around a prescription that could literally save their lives.
La Frontera's Hope Center, located in downtown Tucson, began prescribing Naloxone to clients in July 2016. It is the first behavioral health center in Arizona to do it.
"We're hoping people fully abstain, but we are not naïve enough to think that everybody does," said La Frontera recovery coach Patrick Sullivan.
Sullivan started the program with training from Sonoran Prevention Works. He said more than 130 clients have been prescribed the drug and trained how to handle any situation where it might be needed.
It's a time that reminds recovering addicts that whoever needs the Naloxone is a life worth saving, according to Sullivan.
"They've looked right in my eyes and said 'thank you for caring enough about me to want to save my life if something were to happen'," he said. "It's a powerful moment."
Sullivan said he's aware of what critics might say about prescribing an anti-overdose drug to recovering addicts, but he said having Naloxone nearby has already changed some clients' lives.
"Just having a little bit of security, I think, give them and their families a little sense of hope," said Sullivan.
Billy McAdory is one of two clients to use his prescription. He was actually telling people about it when someone noticed a woman was in the bathroom so long that it became a concern.
He never expected to use his prescription that soon.
First responders in Tucson are equipped with nasal spray doses of Narcan, the name brand for Naloxone. If someone overdoses on opiates, paramedics or police officers use the spray to reverse the effects of whatever drug the person has used.
But someone still needs to call for help, which McAdory said isn't always an easy one to make. He said plenty of addicts are afraid to call 911 because of warrants or just a general uneasiness with police.
"They just freak out," said McAdory. "So a lot of people die needlessly. There's no reason for a lot of people to die, people I've known to die for no reason."
Sullivan said counseling is available for anyone who needs it after reversing an overdose.
He said all La Frontera clinics offer Naloxone prescriptions and he hopes that other agencies will follow Hope Center's lead.