Colorado House Health Committee Passes New Bill that Expands Access to Life-Saving Overdose Antidote, Naloxone

Press Release March 18, 2013
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Art Way 720-288-6924 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215</p>

DENVER—Today, the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee unanimously voted in favor of SB 13-14, which expands access to the life-saving medication, naloxone.  The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee before a floor vote of the full House.

The proposal first secured passage from the Senate on March 6, and was introduced in the House on March 7.  Advocates are pleasantly surprised over the unanimous decision in today’s house committee hearing after receiving eight “no” votes on the Senate floor.

“Expanded access to naloxone is a common-sense proposal to combat the harms of opiate-related overdose, and very reassuring to know every member of the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee agrees,” said Art Way of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We see this as a good sign heading into the final House Appropriations Committee and floor vote.”

Naloxone is a prescription medication that blocks and reverses the effects of opioid drugs such as heroin and OxyContin.  It is already standard medical practice for emergency personnel to administer when summoned to the scene of an overdose. Because naloxone is available only by prescription, it is not widely accessible to those most often in a position to help an overdose victim.  SB 13-14 seeks to expand access by providing protection against civil and criminal liability for medical professionals who prescribe the drug to third parties, and laypeople who subsequently administer it. SB 13-14 is sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar.

Overdose is a major public health problem and a leading cause of accidental death in Colorado. These deaths and related health risks of an overdose are entirely preventable with timely administration of naloxone.  A recent survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 10,000 overdose reversals nationwide are attributed to expanded access and distribution of naloxone.

“Plainly stated, this bill will save lives.  As overdoses continue to increase nationally and in Colorado – specifically among mothers –  families, and service providers need access to this absolute lifesaver,” says Lisa Raville, executive director of the Denver-based Harm Reduction Action Center. “Naloxone is an critical part of Colorado's comprehensive efforts to address drug abuse."

Nine states, Virginia, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia, have already passed laws that explicitly provide protection from civil and/or criminal liability for people who prescribe or administer naloxone to those at risk for drug overdose.

SB-14 is supported by public health organizations, treatment providers and advocacy groups, including the Harm Reduction Action Center, the Drug Policy Alliance, CO Dep’t of Public Health and the Environment, Colorado Medical Society, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Mental Health America of Colorado, Colorado Behavioral Health Council, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Prax(us), the Sex Workers Action Network, Howard Dental Center, Denver Colorado AIDS Project, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Harm Reduction Coalition, and National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators all endorse Naloxone as a safe and effective public health response to opiate overdose.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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