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Benson Measure to Protect Health of First Responders Who Administer Opioid Antidote Clears Assembly Committee

Bill Aims to Help Emergency Personnel Assess Risk for HIV, Hepatitis

Legislation Assemblyman Daniel Benson sponsored to protect first responders who administer naloxone to save the lives of individuals experiencing an opioid overdose was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

“Opioid antidotes have helped many people in New Jersey, giving those who struggle with addiction a second chance at life,” said Benson (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “We must do all that we can to protect New Jersey’s first responders as they do the difficult work of assisting these men and women during an emergency.”

While first responders who administer an opioid antidote to a person experiencing an overdose may save that person’s life, these emergency personnel may endanger their own well-being if they are exposed to the person’s bodily fluids and thus risk transmission of an infectious disease, Benson noted.

The bill (A-3104) would supplement the 2013 Overdose Prevention Act by requiring testing for infectious diseases for certain people who have been administered an opioid antidote by a first responder.

Under the legislation, if an emergency medical responder has contact with a person’s bodily fluid or with an object which involved the transmission of the person’s bodily fluid while administering an opioid antidote, the emergency responder may notify a local public health officer within 24 hours to request that the person who received the antidote submit to tests for HIV, hepatitis and any other infectious diseases that can be transmitted by contact with bodily fluids. If the person does not consent and submit to testing within 24 hours of the public health officer’s request, the public health officer shall file an emergency application to a court having jurisdiction for an order requiring the person to submit to testing. Results would be disclosed only to the person tested and the person who requested the testing. A person who knowingly discloses or uses such confidential information in violation of this provision would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

“Individuals who use heroin and certain other drugs are at a higher risk of having diseases that spread through bodily fluids. As such, the first responders who provide opioid antidotes to these individuals also are at risk,” said Benson. “Testing individuals who receive naloxone can help first responders assess the risk that they have been infected. This is a means of being proactive about a serious workplace hazard that first responders have to deal with on a regular basis.”

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, of which Benson is chair.