Michael Bushnell

What do you get when you combine the dynamic networking ability of the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) with the resources of Care Beyond the Boulevard and four cases of life-saving Narcan, donated by Healing House, in a safe location inside Spalitto’s Pharmacy on arguably one of the Avenue’s roughest blocks? You get free, lifesaving resources deployed in an area that needs it the most for people in crisis. 

Naloxone, the technical term for Narcan, reverses an opioid overdose by immediately blocking the effects of opiates on the brain and restoring breathing. Naloxone will only work if a person has opiates in their system.

That strategic community partnership, largely forged by Laura Cardwell, Lead Street Ambassador for the Avenue CID, came together almost by accident when another Healing House alumnus offered a free vending box for the Narcan through Care Beyond the Boulevard. Healing House then stepped up and donated four cases of Narcan, equating to ninety-six life saving doses.

From there the location was easy. “Spalitto’s was very receptive,” Cardwell said. “We’re very grateful for the partnership with them, it seemed like the perfect place. The Monroe area where they’re at is one of our major problem areas, right in the thick of it.”

 Cardwell is no stranger to street life. For many years she lived the drug lifestyle, using and selling dope, doing whatever it took to stay high and living to fight another day. After numerous arrests and attempts to get clean, including two attempts to complete the Healing House program and washing out, she had finally had enough. “Took me three times to get it right,” she said. Cardwell checked in to Healing House for the third and final time two and a half years ago and has been clean ever since

“I’ve been there,” she said. I’ve been where they are and I try, out here on the streets, to share my story in the hope that it plants a seed for someone else,” Cardwell added.  “I want you to be well. In the meantime, what can I do to help you to stand in the gap to get you there?”

 Dr. Tony Spalitto, a partner in the long-time Northeast pharmacy business, considers the partnership to be a natural extension of the pharmacy’s wellness mission. 

 “So now, what this is going to be doing is allowing anyone that can’t afford that $35 to $40 product,  just to be able to have this on hand in the middle of an emergency or crisis,” Spalitto said. 

This initiative is an outgrowth of a program Cardwell launched during the summer of 2022 to deliver free Narcan to the homeless camps along the Avenue. That effort was expanded to include gas stations and convenience stores last spring. Since its initial rollout to the gas stations, it has already been credited with saving two lives when the store manager administered the Narcan to the person who was overdosing. 

The new vending box at Spalitto’s targets even more life saving resources right where they’re needed.

 According to Cardwell, it’s all about compassion and making sure people know their life matters. “Of course, we want everybody to get well, we want them to get off the streets, we want them to be clean,” she said. “But in the meantime, we want to send that message that you matter, that your life deserves to be saved. This is a huge platform for us to then move forward and offer them resources on other levels.

The new vending box at Spalitto’s will be available during their regular business hours. Plans are already being made to place another vending box in a different area of the Avenue. “The need continues,” Cardwell said. “We want to make sure we’re in the right place at the right time.”