Colorado Senate Health Committee to Vote Thursday on New Legislation that Would Help Prevent Drug Overdose Deaths

Press Release February 10, 2013
Media Contact

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Art Way 720-288-6924</p>

Denver— This week, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will consider SB 13-14, which expands access to the life-saving medication, naloxone.  The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 14 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 352.

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.

Advocates are urging committee members to vote yes on this critically important bill.

“This is a common sense solution to a growing problem,” says Art Way, senior drug policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance in Colorado. “ Expanded access to naloxone is a key component for a comprehensive strategy to prevent overdose.”

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.

“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. "

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, Interfaith Allaince 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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