Mazzeo Introduces Legislation to Help Combat Heroin Epidemic Deaths

Legislation Will Ensure First Responders are Adequately Supplied with Opioid Antidotes

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) has introduced legislation to help prevent heroin overdoses in New Jersey by ensuring that first responders and hospitals always have an ample supply of heroin antidotes to administer.

“As we work to combat the growing heroin addiction epidemic, it’s important that we do all we can to prevent tragic overdoses,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The administration of Narcan has proven highly effective in saving lives, but it’s only effective if we have adequate supplies on hand in the event of an emergency. This bill will ensure that everyone on the front line is adequately supplied with this life-saving drug.”

The bill comes off the heels of a Community Townhall Meeting sponsored by Assemblyman Mazzeo at Atlantic Cape Community College in October where over 150 people attended to bring more awareness to the crisis and help generate new ideas to fight this epidemic as well as reports in the press about police departments running out of the antidote over the course of several weekends.

Specifically, the bill (A-2183) would amend New Jersey’s “Overdose Prevention Act” in order to require each county health department to obtain, through a standing order, and to maintain in an accessible storage location, a healthy reserve stock of opioid antidotes for interim dispensation to first responders and hospital pharmacies within its jurisdiction.

The exact amount of opioid antidotes that are to be kept in reserve stock would be determined on a county by county basis by the director of each county health department, in consultation with the county prosecutor, the county association of police chiefs, and the county association of fire chiefs, and with input from the hospitals, emergency medical responders, and emergency medical response entities operating in the county.

“Last year Atlantic County had the highest per capita rate of fatal heroin overdoses in the entire state,” said Mazzeo. “We’ve lost to many young lives to this terrible epidemic, and we need to make sure first responders and hospitals are always ready and able to save lives.”

The bill specifies that whenever a first responder, first response entity or a hospital pharmacy in the county exhausts the supply of opioid antidotes that has been dispensed pursuant to a standing order issued under the Overdose Prevention Act, the county health department will be required to immediately provide the first responder or first response entity with an interim supply of opioid antidotes from the reserve stock that is maintained pursuant to the bill’s provisions.

The interim supply would need to be sufficient to ensure that the first responder or first response entity, as the case may be, will have adequate stock to continue to administer or dispense opioid antidotes, as appropriate, during the interim period when the entity is awaiting the receipt of a new stock of opioid antidotes.

Any first responder, first response entity, or hospital pharmacy that obtains an interim supply of opioid antidotes from the reserve stock would be responsible for repaying the county health department for the costs associated with the department’s acquisition and delivery of such interim supply. The bill would expressly authorize the various county health departments in the State to enter into shared service agreements, in accordance with the state’s “Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act” in order to facilitate the acquisition of heroin antidotes at discounted rates and minimize delivery costs.

The bill would require the Commissioner of Human Services to establish rules and regulations to identify the manner and timeframe in which a first responder, first response entity, or hospital pharmacy must notify the respective county health department about the need for interim opioid antidote supplies under the bill’s provisions, and the manner and timeframe in which a first responder, first response entity, or hospital pharmacy must provide reimbursement to the county health department for the costs of acquiring and delivering such interim supplies.

Finally, the bill would specify, consistent with the existing provisions of the Overdose Prevention Act, that any county health department or employee of a county health department that provides a first responder, first response entity, or hospital pharmacy with an interim supply of opioid antidotes from the reserve stock will be immune from criminal or civil liability, or any disciplinary action, in association with the provision of such interim supply.