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Conaway, Vainieri Huttle, Armato, Verrelli & Benson Bills Aiming to Prevent Overdoses & Address Substance Abuse Crisis in NJ Head to Governor

With more than 3,000 lives lost to overdoses in New Jersey each year and an estimated 94,000+ residents needing substance abuse treatment, several Assembly Democrats sponsor legislation aimed at preventing overdoses and addressing the state’s substance abuse crisis. The three measures passed the full Legislature Monday.

“As a doctor, I know just how important it is to prepare for and respond to medical emergencies patients may encounter,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). “With thousands of lives lost to overdoses each year, we need a system in place to help residents struggling with substance use disorders who may be at risk for overdoses.”

The legislation focuses on making medicines that help treat the effects of opioids more accessible in New Jersey. These medicines include opioid antidotes such as naloxone, which can help save the life of someone experiencing an overdose, and buprenorphine, which is used to help treat opioid use disorder.

A-5495/S-3803, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Conaway, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Anthony Verrelli, unanimously passed both the Senate and Assembly. The bill would permit certain paramedics to issue buprenorphine to patients who had to be administered an opioid antidote in an emergency situation.

“Due to the addictive nature of these drugs, unfortunately it is quite possible for someone who overdosed once to accidentally overdose again,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We must take a holistic approach to combating overdoses by also treating opioid use disorder itself with medicines such as buprenorphine.”

Another measure (A-5703), sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Verrelli and Conaway, would require certain health insurers to provide coverage for an opioid antidote without imposing prior authorization requirements. The bill, which unanimously passed both the Senate and Assembly, would help expedite the availability of this medicine throughout the State.

“Every life lost to an overdose is a tragedy that might have been avoided with the right resources and support,” said Assemblyman John Armato (D-Atlantic). “We must do everything in our power to help prevent the needless loss of life caused by drug overdoses throughout our state.”

“Having immediate access to an opioid antidote when helping someone experiencing an overdose can mean the difference between life and death,” said Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “It might be too late if a patient has to wait for treatment until they reach the hospital, which is why we must improve access to these medicines in our state.”

The final measure (A-5457/S-3491) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vainieri Huttle, Verrelli and Daniel Benson, would permit any person to obtain, distribute and administer opioid antidotes. It passed the Senate by a vote of 36-3 and the Assembly by a vote of 72-0-0.

“When you consider the prevalence of overdoses in our state and just how effective opioid antidotes can be in those situations, it is clear we must do everything we can to make this medication widely available,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Allowing anyone to obtain opioid antidotes and give them out or utilize them in emergency situations is one way we can help get this life-saving medicine into the hands of the many residents who need it.”

Having passed both Houses, all three bills now head to the Governor’s desk.