(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) to supersede overbearing local EMS protocols mired in bureaucratic red tape that are putting the well-being of New Jersey residents in danger is now law.
The new law (formerly bill A-4467) clarifies that authorized persons and entities may administer a single dose of any opioid antidote, or multiple doses of any intranasal or intramuscular opioid antidote, to overdose victims, with immunity under “Overdose Prevention Act.”
Protocols prior to the law coming from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) mandate that first responders – including EMT’s and Firefighters – can only give one dose of naloxone, and if the patient is not revived, attempt to call their EMS Director for approval of additional doses. The same protocols also limited first responders’ access to varying naloxone products, including the name brand NARCAN® nasal spray because of the higher dosage in the new products.
Mazzeo noted only EMT and fire departments are under this direction, while police departments and even civilians are free from these restrictions.
“First responders shouldn’t have to pick up a phone to ask permission to save someone’s life,” said Mazzeo, the legislation’s prime sponsor. “Naloxone is proven to save lives time and again. Studies have shown that patients can’t overdose on it. The question, then, is why is the state standing in the way of first responders’ ability to save lives?”
Prior to being elected, Assemblyman John Armato of Atlantic County, a 40-year volunteer firefighter, former EMT and current certified recovery coach, worked with Mazzeo’s office in crafting the bill.
“I’ve been on the front lines of the opioid and heroin epidemic and I’ve personally sat for minutes that felt like lifetimes awaiting instructions from an EMS Director instead of doing what my training tells me to do – save lives,” said Armato. “The difference between reviving someone after two minutes and after 10 minutes could mean someone’s life or lifelong mental incapacitation. I’m grateful for Assemblyman Mazzeo’s forward-thinking leadership on this important issue.”
This new law provides that any person or entity authorized to administer an opioid antidote to an overdose victim, pursuant to the “Overdose Prevention Act” (OPA), may administer, with full immunity: (1) a single dose of any type of opioid antidote that has been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the treatment of an opioid overdose; and (2) up to three doses of an opioid antidote that is administered through intranasal application, or through an intramuscular auto-injector, as may be necessary to revive the victim. The law also specifies that prior consultation with, or approval by, a third-party physician or other medical personnel shall not be required for an authorized person or entity to administer up to three doses of an opioid antidote, through intranasal application, or through an intramuscular auto-injector, to the same overdose victim.
The new law also clarifies certain definitions in the OPA to include reference to certain persons and entities that were not previously specified therein.
Specifically, it provides that the term “emergency medical responder” includes, but is not limited to, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and fire fighters; and that the term “emergency medical response entity” includes, but is not limited to, first aid, ambulance, and rescue squads, basic life support and advanced life support ambulance squads, air medical service providers, and fire-fighting squads.
It also clarifies that an authorized person or entity may administer under the OPA, with immunity, a single dose of any type of opioid antidote; and up to three doses of an opioid antidote that is administered through intranasal application, or through an intramuscular auto-injector, as may be necessary to revive the victim. Under the new law, prior consultation with, or approval by, a third-party physician or other medical personnel will not be required in order for an authorized person or entity to administer up to three doses of an opioid antidote, through intranasal or intramuscular means. The Commissioner of Health must provide written notice to emergency medical service providers within 45 days.
“This isn’t about one company or one product,” added Mazzeo. “With the introduction of synthetic opioids like Fentanyl – a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine – blended with traditional heroin on the street, first responders need the stronger dose to revive someone. Any company switching to a 4mg dose will be left out by the state. It’s simply counterproductive to our mission of saving lives.”