With the number of opioid overdoses consistently rising, having an antidote at arm’s reach can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Naloxone kits have become easier to get at pharmacies and through health programs. More than 28,000 kits have been handed out since March 31.

Earlier this month the province announced it would provide more of the kits, free of charge, to more pharmacies and health units.

“It blocks opioid receptors in your brain and allows them to come out of the overdose; begin breathing again,” says Doug Ironside, unit nurse with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

According to the health unit, more than 700 people died of opiate overdoses in Ontario in 2015.

“We've had three of four who have actually used the kits themselves and they've said they prevented three deaths,” says Midland pharmacist Jason Mackie.

He’s handed out kits since October and believes they should be made available anywhere people are at risk.

“They should be any place where there are people at risk, whether it's a shelter; we do have one at the methadone clinic downtown.”

Officials with Huronia Transition Homes know of two women who died recently after overdosing. The shelter’s executive director believes the naloxone kits would have saved their lives. The shelter is still waiting for its kits.

“It impacted our team members in a huge way,” says Kathy Willis. “Harm reduction is how we support people who are struggling with addiction.”

Next month the health unit, along with the school board, police and emergency services will meet in an effort to come up with a plan across the regrion to raise awareness and get more of these kits out there to save lives.

“Addiction comes from trauma and pain. It’s not something we can control. So if that use is going to happen, at the very least we can provide them with the measures to protect themselves,” says Ironside.