Congresswoman Donna Edwards Reintroduces S.O.S Act to Combat Nationwide Overdose Epidemic

Press Release March 5, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Benjamin Gerdes, Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards: 202-225-8699</p>

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (MD-4) reintroduced the Stop Overdose Stat (S.O.S.) Act today with 18 Members to support community-based efforts to prevent fatal drug overdoses. The legislation establishes a federal plan to combat what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares a public health epidemic.

“The S.O.S Act is a critical first step to establish a comprehensive approach in the fight against a health crisis that is going largely unnoticed in our country,” said Congresswoman Edwards. “We lose more than 30,000 Americans every year to drug overdoses, yet we know that programs and treatments are proven to substantially reduce the number of tragedies.  It is time the federal government took action on a nationwide scale to promote and coordinate the treatments recommended by the medical community. I am pleased that 18 of my colleagues joined me in this effort, and I look forward to working with everyone in Congress to improve our woefully inadequate response to drug overdoses.”

"Local health officials and frontline workers engaged in overdose prevention are saving lives every day using straightforward, low-cost interventions. With federal support, we could be saving many more lives and spare countless families from enduring the heart-wrenching loss of a loved one,” said Grant Smith, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The loss of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has helped to bring this public health crisis into focus and now is the time for lawmakers to expand access to naloxone and public education activities that could dramatically reduce overdose fatalities nationwide.”

Since 2000, unintentional fatal overdoses have jumped more than 150 percent nationwide, claiming more than 30,000 lives in 2010 (the latest year data is available). More than 100 fatal overdoses occur in the U.S. every day, and now people aged 25 to 64 are more likely to die as a result of a drug overdose than from injuries sustained in motor vehicle traffic crashes. While overdoses from illegal drugs persist as a major public health problem, fatal overdoses from prescribed opioid pain medications such as oxycodone account for more than 40 percent of all overdose deaths.

The S.O.S. Act would provide federal support for overdose prevention programs run by community agencies and municipal, state and tribal governments.   Overdose prevention programs train people who may witness an overdose, such as a person who knows a family member or loved one who misuses drugs, on how to recognize the signs of an overdose, seek emergency medical help, and administer naloxone and other first aid. Naloxone is a medication that quickly reverses an overdose from heroin and opioid pain medications. The use of naloxone as an overdose reversal medication has recently been profiled in USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN and other media outlets.

Despite recognition among federal lawmakers and health authorities that overdose prevention programs are highly effective at saving lives at low-cost to taxpayers, few federal dollars are dedicated to supporting these critical programs. A study funded by the CDC and released last year found that expanding access to naloxone and overdose prevention activities are effective at reducing deaths from opioid overdoses. A CDC report issued in 2012 credits overdose prevention programs with saving more than 10,000 lives since 1996.

The S.O.S. Act is supported by the American Medical Association, Trust for America’s Health, Drug Policy Alliance and Harm Reduction Coalition.

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

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