Gov. Signs Landmark Bill to Reduce Deaths from Drug Overdose in California

Press Release September 18, 2002
Media Contact

Glenn Backes at 916 439-6494 or Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

Sacramento – Governor Gray Davis Tuesday signed into law a bill which will allow counties to train first response emergency medical teams in the use of Narcan, the lifesaving antidote to opiate overdose.

Estimates from the National Centers for Disease Control suggest that a staggering 1,400 to 2,200 Californians have succumbed to drug overdoses each year since 1998 – many of which could have been prevented with the use of Narcan. Previously, only certain medical personnel were permitted to use Narcan – not the emergency workers, including volunteer fire and ambulance teams, who are usually first on the scene, providing care in those crucial life-or-death moments.

The bill, known as the Overdose Prevention, Education & Response Act (Senate Bill 1695), was authored by Senator Martha Escutia of Los Angeles.

“Thanks to the compassion, courage, and perseverance of Senator Escutia, Governor Davis has joined the movement to address this terrible human tragedy,” said Glenn Backes, Director of National Health Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill will save lives.”

Senate Bill 1695 was placed on the Governor’s desk with strong bi-partisan support and a commitment from the California Legislature to help curtail preventable overdose death. The Overdose Prevention, Education & Response Act has become Chapter 678 of the California Public Health and Safety Code and goes into effect on January 1, 2003.

SB 1695 also creates a framework making existing data on overdose more readily available to policymakers and communities. The Act was authored by Senator Martha Escutia in response to the epidemic of fatal drug overdoses that California has been facing over the last several years.

“California is beginning to treat drug overdose deaths as the public health emergency that they are,” continued Backes. “Senator Escutia and Governor Davis have a lot to be proud of.”

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

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