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

Press Release February 14, 2013
Media Contact

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

DENVER—Yesterday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted in favor of SB 13-14, which expands access to the life-saving medication, naloxone.  The bill received bipartisan support and but was one “absent” vote and one “no” vote short of unanimous support.  The bill now moves to the Appropriations Committee before a floor vote of the full Senate.

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.

“We must have a comprehensive strategy to reduce the huge number of tragic and preventable overdose deaths in Colorado,” says Art Way, Colorado drug policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “ Expanded access to naloxone is a key component in that strategy.  This bill will save lives and should now be acted on by the legislature right away.  Lives hang in the balance.”

Eight states, including 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.

"Colorado has the second highest rate of prescription pill abuse in the country.  Overdose, which is primarily caused by prescription opiates, killed twice as many Coloradans in 2010 than drunken driving related accidents,” said Lisa Raville, executive director of the Denver-based Harm Reduction Action Center.  “Making Naloxone accessible to the people who are most likely to witness an overdose—the friends, family, and service providers of opiate users—will save lives in Colorado.”

The Opiate antagonist proposal 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.

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