Nevada Passes Bill to Prevent Overdose Deaths

Press Release May 4, 2015
Media Contact

<h2 class="subtitle">
<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Jer&oacute;nimo Salda&ntilde;a 917-410-1270</p>

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is expected to sign SB 459, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, into law today. This bill will provide protection to those who call for help in an overdose emergency, while also expanding access to the overdose antidote, naloxone.

Overdose is a major public health problem and is now the leading cause of accidental death in the nation, even surpassing deaths from car accidents. Nevada has the fourth-highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 20.7 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities. This is an 80 percent increase in overdose deaths since 1999, when the rate was 11.5 per 100,000.

These deaths are preventable.  The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until several hours after they have taken a drug and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others, meaning that there is both time and opportunity to intervene and save a life. This legislation will help save lives by establishing a Good Samaritan law to protect those who summon medical assistance for an overdose from arrest for drug possession.  The new law will also increase the availability of naloxone, a generic, FDA-approved drug that has been proven to help prevent heroin and opioid overdose deaths.

“Naloxone has saved thousands of lives throughout the U.S. and is proven to keep families together and strengthen our communities” says Jerónimo Saldaña, Legislative and Organizing Coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance. “People in Nevada will now have better access to medicine that can save the life of a loved one.”

Since DPA passed the first Good Samaritan law in New Mexico in 2007, 24 states (NM, WA, NY, CT, IL, CO, RI, FL, MA, CA, NC, NJ, VT, DE, MN, GA,WI, AK, LA, MD, PA, KY, WV and MS) and the District of Columbia have passed Good Samaritan laws, with DPA playing a leading role in many of these efforts.  DPA has also taken the lead in expanding access to the overdose antidote, naloxone – and 32 states (NM, NY, IL, WA, CA, RI, CT, MA, NC, OR, CO, VA, KY, MD, VT, NJ, OK, UT, TN, ME, GA, WI, MN, OH, DE, PA, MI, ID, WV, MS, ND and AR) and the District of Columbia have passed laws expanding access to naloxone.

“SB459 is an excellent example of translating over a decade of public health research into life-saving policy reform,” said Karla D. Wagner, PhD, Assistant Professor in the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno.  “This will dramatically expand the ability of Nevadans to access naloxone and will encourage people to call 911 in the event of a drug overdose. Widespread education and implementation efforts will be key to ensuring the success of this law.”

“As a parent of child who died from an opioid overdose, I am very pleased that SB 459 passed,” Ginger Paulsen, a Nevada resident. “Had this law been in effect in 2009, it might have saved my daughter’s life.  When she overdosed, no one called 911 as they were too afraid of getting arrested.  If they had called 911 and the first responders (police) had naloxone, she would probably be alive today.  SB 459 is life-saving legislation.”

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.