FOR IMMEDIATE: April 18th, 2015
Bill to Help Reverse Skyrocketing Heroin Overdose Rates Passes Senate
Senate Bill 23 Will Save Lives
JUNEAU – Today the Senate passed Senate Bill 23; an act relating to immunity for prescribing, providing, or administering opioid overdose drugs. Heroin and opioid pain reliever (OPR) use and abuse constitute a dangerous and growing public health threat throughout Alaska, yet one of the medical tools to reverse opioid overdoses is currently unavailable when needed most. Senate Bill 23 removes civil liability for both doctors who prescribe and those who administer naloxone, or Narcan, an opiate antidote which reverses opiate drug overdoses thereby saving the life of the victim.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist and is used to counter the effects of opioid overdose. Although naloxone is a prescription drug, it is not a controlled substance and has no abuse potential. Naloxone is extremely safe and effective, and has no negative side effects if used on someone without opioids in their system.
“Naloxone is both safe and effective. For more than three decades, naloxone has been used by emergency medical personnel to reverse overdoses but evidence has proven it can be administered by ordinary citizens with no formal training,” said Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage). “The problem is, friends or family members of overdose victims who are most often the actual first responders and best positioned to save the lives of their loved ones do not have access to this life-saving drug.”
Opioid pain reliever and heroin overdoses constitute a growing public health threat nationally, and have reached a crisis level in Alaska. Lieutenant Rex Leath, deputy commander of the Troopers’ Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit commented upon reviewing Alaska State Troopers’ 2014 Annual Drug Report that, “the whole state has been really adamant that they feel like heroin is taking over their neighborhoods. Heroin, it literally is killing our kids.”
““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. It’s one of our duties as elected officials to ensure our laws aren’t creating unintended barriers from Alaskans receiving medical help in life-threatening situations. I applaud and thank my Senate colleagues for moving this legislation forward today. It could literally be a matter of life and death.”
For more information, please contact Amory Lelake at 907.465.3704