High school student designs Narcan dispenser for public spaces

After finding the body of an overdose victim last spring, 17-year-old Kanishk Nazareth wanted to do something to help save lives

JD Mullane
Bucks County Courier Times, Levittown, Pa.

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. — Kanishk Nazareth was doing spring cleanup of soccer fields with his teammates in northeast Philadelphia when they found a body.

"It's right off the Roosevelt Boulevard. There's this ditch and little creek, and we went down there to pick up the trash," said Kanishk, 17, a senior at Central Bucks West High School.

The dead man had been unnoticed for some time. Near one of his hands was a prescription pill bottle, indicating opioids.

"The authorities came to us later and said that the postmortem showed it was an overdose," he said.

The scene shocked.

"A scarring image," he said.

He knows all about the drug and opioid epidemic. Knows that about 70,000 Americans, most of them young, die from overdoses each year. But it didn't hit home until that scene at the fields he's played on since he was child.

"It hadn't really been made personal to me," he said. "This wasn't a person I knew, but it happened in a place I knew and loved. Those fields, really, it's where I have great memories. To see this (drug) situation affecting a place close to my heart, I knew I had to do something good to try to curb this epidemic."

He created the ODbox, a dispenser of Narcan, the life-saving antidote for opioid overdoses.

"It's a box that provides Narcan to anyone," he said. "You keep it in places where it's easily accessible in populated areas. If anyone sees an overdose, all they have to do is run to the box, open it, and take out Narcan and administer it. The ODbox does two things: It makes Narcan available anywhere, and it gives any of us the power to save a life," he said.

The summer after finding the dead man, Kanishk enrolled in a business incubator class at the University of Pennsylvania. There, four kids were involved in developing the ODbox prototype, each tending to a task, and each eventually signing off, leaving Kanishk as "chief of operations," he said.

His research also showed the drug epidemic is too big to handle for just politicians, health workers and police.

"This is a fight each of us has to take on," he said. "It's an all-hands-on-deck situation."

The ODbox is equipped with digital gizmos (designed by one of Kanishk's friends in New Jersey) so when a box of Narcan is retrieved, an alert is sent to local 911, which gives the location of the box.

"This makes sure the person who overdoses can be stabilized and be taken to a hospital. Then, hopefully, they can get back on their feet and find the treatment they need to recover," he said.

The ODbox has won accolades from Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, whose office made a short video about it.

A Smart Box for Stopping ODs with a Young Local Inventor

CB West student Kanishk Nazareth shows DA Matt Weintraub his innovative idea for reducing overdose deaths in our communities inspired by a tragic encounter with the opioid epidemic.

Posted by Bucks County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, February 20, 2020

He's in discussion to produce ODbox with a Bensalem computer components company, just five minutes from the soccer field where he found the overdose victim. He's also discussed ODbox the Philadelphia Department of Health, which directed him to pitch it to SEPTA, rehab centers and two colleges.

"We have a multitude of avenues we can take right now, and we're working all of them," he said. "Hopefully, within the next month or so, you'll hear about sales and see the first couple of our ODboxes going up."

Kanishk lives in Warrington, a place he speaks fondly about.

"It's more or less all I've known," he said. "It's helped me become who I am today. It's where all my best friends are. So to be able to create something like this and give back to the place that raised me, it's all I can ask for."

His parents are immigrants from India. They raised him to work hard and to be grateful for everything that he has.

"My parents worked really hard to get where they are," he said. "They taught me to see the bigger picture. Any short-term pain you might be going through now, any short-term hard work or struggle you go through, it's nothing compared to what other people who are less fortunate face every day, and maybe for their whole life.

"Because I am fortunate to be raised where I am, there's an obligation to give back. I believe that anyone who's raised in an area like this, and has good fortune, it's really important to do your best and to give back to the community," he said.

His dream college is the University of Pennsylvania and its Wharton School of Business. He has applied and said he will know soon if he has been accepted for the fall semester.

"I definitely want to study business, and I've done my research on entrepreneur resources at different schools, to see what resources they can offer to help bring (ODbox) along. So that was a big factor in applying to Penn," he said.


©2020 Bucks County Courier Times, Levittown, Pa.

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