Health and Fitness

NY Sen. Hannon and Assm. Dinowitz Introduce Life-Saving Opioid Overdose Prevention Bill

Legislation Will Reduce Number One Cause of Accidental Death in New York State by Increasing Access to Antidote, Naloxone

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–January 31, 2014.  This week Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) introduced an opioid overdose prevention bill (S.6744/A.8637), legislation that would help prevent accidental opioid overdoses and save the lives of thousands of New Yorkers by expanding access to the opioid antidote naloxone. More than 2,000 New Yorkers die each year from opioid overdose, with heroin and prescription pain medications involved in most of those deaths. Naloxone, if administered during an overdose, effectively and safely reverses the overdose and saves lives. In fact, a 2010 CDC report credits overdose education and naloxone distribution programs with more than 10,000 documented overdose reversals since 1996.

“It has been estimated that heroin addiction on Long Island has increased nearly fourfold since 2011,” said Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau). “This alarming statistic demonstrates the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing the state’s drug crisis. Ensuring families have access to naloxone is the next necessary step.”

Accidental drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death in New York, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. Studies show that most overdoses are witnessed, and there is a 1-3 hour window in which an opioid overdose can be reversed, making many deaths preventable. Naloxone, when administered in a timely fashion, has proven to be a highly successful tool in saving lives. In the recent 2013 National Drug Control Strategy report, the Obama administration noted the importance of increasing widespread availability to Naloxone, citing research around the efficacy of the life-saving tool and the need to equip health care providers and first responders, like police officers, with the antidote.

“New York healthcare organizations have been training the community on overdose prevention and making naloxone available for 10 years. We know how to get this job done,” said Matt Curtis, policy director for VOCAL New York. “This legislation will free our groups to get naloxone to those in need, strengthen the foundation for overdose prevention set by our legislature and the State and New York City departments of health, and impose no additional costs to the public.” 

“Accidental drug overdoses have reached epidemic proportions, and no community in our state is unaffected,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx). “This legislation builds on a law I sponsored in 2006 by strengthening access to one of the best tools we have to prevent overdose deaths — the antidote medication naloxone, which has been distributed to family members and people at risk of overdose for a decade in New York. That, plus education, has saved many lives in the past several years.” 

“Given the magnitude of New York’s opiate crisis, we must modernize state law to allow for easier access to a life-saving drug like naloxone,” said Jeff Reynolds, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence. “Parents, locked in a race against time as they try to get their sons and daughters into treatment, are asking for the drug, as are drug treatment centers, schools and community based organizations. As the overdose death toll on Long Island and across the state continues to rise, we need to make sure we have every tool available to us as we help those struggling with addiction find a path to recovery.”

This key legislation would dramatically increase the accessibility of the life-saving reversal tool by allowing authorized health care professionals to issue standing orders, or non-patient specific prescriptions, to certified training programs that would in turn train individuals on the signs of overdose and provide them with the naloxone kits. By expanding naloxone distribution, this legislation will help reduce the number of preventable deaths resulting from accidental drug overdoses.

“It’s no secret that many families in the Southern Tier and throughout New York have someone who struggles with painkiller or heroin addiction, but no one wants the use of painkillers or heroin to result in the death of a son, daughter or other loved one due to an overdose,” said John Barry, executive director at the Southern Tier AIDS Program. “This legislation would put a life-saving medication in the hands of friends and family who are dealing with this problem. Like many rural areas of the state, there is a lack of medical providers who are currently prescribing this medication.”

“It’s rare that we have the opportunity to enact a policy that will directly and immediately save lives,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx). “While we’re all working toward a comprehensive approach to aid people with substance abuse problems, this legislation will help families protect loved ones at risk of overdose until they can get the help they need.”

As part of a continued effort in New York State to combat the growing crisis of overdose, this new legislation builds off of the historic“911 Good Samaritan” law that passed in 2011 that encourages those who witness an overdose situation to call911 without fear of police arrest by providing limited protections from criminal prosecutions for simple possession of drugs. In addition to community-based naloxone distribution programs, state and local health departments have also enabled police first responders in Albany, Long Island, and Staten Island to carry naloxone kits, which has resulted in a number of lives saved.

“Over the last few years, New York has taken constructive steps to end the crisis of accidental overdose deaths, like passing the 911 Good Samaritan law,” said gabriel sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “But more needs to be done. This legislation will save lives, and our coalition will work closely with the sponsors to pass this legislation and deliver it to the Governor’s desk for signature.”