Senate Bill 23 Aims to Save Lives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 21, 2015
JUNEAU – Today Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) introduced SB 23 – an act relating to immunity for prescribing, providing, or administering opioid overdose drugs. This legislation is the result of a real and growing heroin and opioid pain reliever (OPR) abuse epidemic throughout Alaska. SB 23 gives providers, acting in good faith, the ability to prescribe naloxone to persons who may be able to use it to reverse opioid overdose, and eliminates the possibility of negative legal action against health care professionals, loved ones or bystanders who administer overdose antidotes in emergency, life-threatening situations.
Naloxone is most commonly injected intravenously for fastest action or in a nasal spray, which usually causes the drug to act within a minute, and last up to 45 minutes. A 2002–2004 study referenced by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 50 naloxone programs nationwide had reversed more than 10,000 overdoses.
OPR and heroin overdoses constitute a growing public health threat nationally, and have reached a crisis level in Alaska. According to the Alaska State Troopers’ 2013 Annual Drug Report, there has been a resurgence of heroin and other opiate use and abuse. In 2008, the rate of prescription overdose deaths in Alaska was more than twice that of the United States overall (14.2 versus 6.5 per 100,000 persons) and most of these overdoses were due to opioids (79% in Alaska and 74% in the US). The Anchorage Police Department (APD) reported a 94% increase in heroin seizures in 2013, and heroin-related overdoses are now claiming more young lives than traffic fatalities.
“Naloxone is a prescription drug regularly carried by medical first responders. It can be administered by ordinary citizens with little or no formal training, but because access is extremely limited, it is usually not available when and where it is needed. Current state law predates the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic, and it’s time to change that,” said Senator Ellis. “It’s our duty as elected officials to ensure our laws aren’t preventing Alaskans from receiving medical help in life-threatening situations.”
Last year, the Legislature wisely passed HB 369 referred to as the “Make the Call” Good Samaritan bill, offering a restriction from prosecution to those who alert the authorities when someone they’re with experiences an overdose. SB 23 further addresses this epidemic by removing some legal barriers to the timely administration of naloxone.
“We can’t ignore Alaska’s heroin problem any longer,” Senator Ellis said. “Most heroin overdose deaths are preventable, and that’s what SB 23 is about: saving lives.”
SB 23 has been referred to the Senate Health and Social Services and Judiciary Committees.
For more information, please contact Senator Johnny Ellis at 907.465.3704