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Assembly Approves Benson, Lampitt, Giblin & Wagner Legislation to Help Prevent Narcotics Overdoses

Bill Would Provide Civil, Criminal & Professional Immunity for Doctors Prescribing Opioid Antidotes

(TRENTON) – The Assembly advanced on Thursday legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Pamela Lampitt, Thomas Giblin and Connie Wagner to help prevent overdoses from heavy narcotics such as morphine and heroin.

The bill (A-3095), known as the “Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act,” would provide civil, criminal, and professional immunity for health care professionals involved in prescribing, dispensing, or administering naloxone or any similarly acting, FDA-approved drug for the treatment of an opioid overdose.

“By encouraging the wider distribution of naloxone or similarly acting drugs to those at risk for an opioid overdose we can substantially reduce the number of related overdose deaths,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This is a sensible and life-saving practice that many other states have already employed to great effect.”

The lawmakers noted that naloxone is an inexpensive and easily administered antidote for an overdose of opioids, such as morphine, heroin, OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Specifically, naloxone is used to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally.

“There is empirical evidence to show that naloxone and similar drugs save lives,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We should do everything we can to make sure these drugs are available to help prevent unnecessary deaths and hopefully give people battling addiction a second chance at life.”

According to a study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1996 naloxone has reversed 10,171 drug overdoses, saving thousands of lives. The CDC also noted that 19 (76%) of the 25 states with 2008 drug overdose death rates higher than the median and nine (69.2%) of the 13 states in the highest quartile did not have a community-based opioid overdose prevention program that distributed naloxone.

“Statistics show that states without an opioid overdose prevention program have far higher overdose death rates than others,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “This legislation would incorporate a responsible approach to make sure these life-saving drugs are administered to those who need it most.”

The bill would also provide immunity for individuals other than health care professionals if the action was taken during an emergency, and the person believed in good faith that another person was experiencing an opioid overdose.
“With the Governor vetoing the Good Samaritan law we passed, this approach is all the more necessary to help prevent overdose deaths,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It’s my hope that this legislation will not only save lives, but also provide a moment of clarity to help many with substance abuse problems turn their lives around.”

Health care professionals prescribing or dispensing naloxone or any other opioid antidote to a patient would be required to ensure that the patient receives patient overdose information that includes, but is not limited to: opioid overdose prevention and recognition; how to perform rescue breathing and resuscitation; opioid antidote dosage and administration; the importance of calling 9-1-1 emergency telephone service for assistance with an opioid overdose; and care for an overdose victim after administration of the opioid antidote.

Health care professionals would have the option of fulfilling this informational requirement by maintaining a written agreement for the provision of such information through a community-based organization, substance abuse organization, or other organization which addresses medical or social issues related to drug addiction.

Additionally, the bill would grant the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services the authority to award grants, based upon any funding appropriated by the Legislature, to create or support local opioid overdose prevention, recognition, and response projects proposed by county and municipal health departments, correctional institutions, hospitals, and universities, as well as organizations operating community-based programs, substance abuse programs, syringe access programs, or other programs which address medical or social issues related to drug addiction.

The measure passed 68-8; and it will now go to the Governor for further consideration.