Conaway, Lampitt, Pinkin & Benson Bill to Expand Life-Saving "Overdose Prevention Act" Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation Would Extend Immunity Provisions of Opioid Antidote Law

An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway Jr., Pamela Lampitt, Nancy Pinkin and Daniel Benson to help save more lives by granting immunity to emergency responders and other critical frontline professionals who administer overdose antidotes.

“When seconds count, a well-meaning individual should not have to think twice about helping someone in need due to a fear that it ultimately may result in being held culpable for wrongdoing,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This legislation is about making sure that more men and women who are willing and able to assist an individual during an emergency can do so without hesitation.”

Specifically, the bill (A-3720) would extend the immunity provisions of the Overdose Prevention Act to certain professionals and professional entities that administer or dispense opioid antidotes, including sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians and other paid or volunteer emergency responders, safeguarding them from liability if they in good faith administer an antidote like naloxone, known also by its brand name Narcan, in the event of an emergency. Such antidotes counteract the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system opioids cause and can prevent death during an overdose.

“Authorizing more of our residents to provide medical assistance free of fear that legal repercussions will follow will go a long way toward saving lives,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “This legislation reflects our state’s collective commitment to helping those who struggle with substance abuse get back on the right path.”

Enacted in May 2013, the Overdose Prevention Act provides health care practitioners who prescribe or dispense naloxone or other opioid antidotes with immunity from civil and criminal liability and professional discipline. The law is a defense for certain individuals who administer an antidote in order to save the life of someone they believe in good faith is experiencing an opioid overdose.

The new legislation would authorize health care practitioners, such as physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists and certain other practitioners – pursuant to a standing order – to provide opioid antidotes to professionals they deem capable of administering or dispensing the antidote or to professional entities whose employees they deem capable. Any parties authorized to dispense opioid antidotes would also be required provide patients with overdose prevention information.

“Naxolone is inexpensive and easy to administer, and already, it has played a critical role in saving lives in New Jersey,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This bill will ensure that individuals who are in a position to do the right thing can follow their instincts without of fear of liability.”

“As we work urgently to strengthen overdose prevention, having medication ready to reverse overdoses when they do occur is both pragmatic and necessary during this crisis,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “By removing liability, this legislation will simply expand the life-saving efforts of our initial legislation.”

The measure was released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, of which Conaway is chair and Benson is vice-chair.