New Jersey Senate Health Committee to Vote Monday on New Legislation that Would Help Prevent Drug Overdose Deaths

Press Release January 9, 2013
Media Contact

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243</p>

Trenton—This Monday, January 14th, the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will consider the Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act (S2082), which expands access to the life-saving medication, naloxone.  The hearing will be held on Monday, January 14th at 1:00 p.m. in Committee Room 1 on the first floor of the State House Annex.

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. Successfully implemented naloxone programs in other states demonstrate that laypeople, including family members and peers, can be easily trained in administration.  A recent survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that from 1996-2010, 50 naloxone programs nation-wide had provided training and distributed the medication to more than 53,000 people and received reports of more than 10,000 overdose reversals. No such programs exist in New Jersey.  This legislation is designed to encourage their establishment.

Because naloxone is available only by prescription, it is not widely accessible to those most often in a position to help an overdose victim.  S2082 seeks to expand access by providing protection from civil and criminal liability to medical professionals who prescribe the drug and laypeople who administer it.

Overdose is a major public health problem and the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey.  These deaths are entirely 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 safe a life.

Advocates are urging committee members to vote yes on this critically important bill.  “We must have a comprehensive strategy to reduce the huge number of tragic and preventable overdose deaths in New Jersey, says Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for Drug Policy Alliance. “ Expanded access to naloxone is a key component in that strategy.  This bill will save lives and should be acted on by the legislature with all possible speed.  Lives hang in the balance.”

Senator Joseph Vitale, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, says "Drug overdose continues to be the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey.  Each year it surpasses the number of deaths caused by automobile accidents and guns.  Expanding access to naloxone will allow this medication to reach its full public health potential and will be an important part of New Jersey's comprehensive efforts to address drug abuse."

Eight states, 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.

Senate Bill 2082 is sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Senator Christopher Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), Senator Richard Codey (D-Essex and Morris), Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland), and Senator Anthony R. Bucco (R-Morris and Somerset).

Patty DiRenzo of Blackwood lost her son, Salvatore, to an overdose when he was 26 years old.  “Sal was a beautiful soul who unfortunately struggled with addiction.  If the people he was using with on the night he died had access to naloxone, he might still be alive today.  Instead, my son was left alone to die.  It’s extremely important to have policies like this one in place, so that other families are spared the grief that mine has endured.”

The Assembly companion, A3095, is sponsored by Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer and Middlesex), Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Burlington and Camden), Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Essex and Passaic), Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Middlesex and Somerset), Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen and Hudson), Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen and Passaic), Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D-Bergen and Passaic), and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex and Morris).

The Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act is supported by a long list of public health organizations, treatment providers and advocacy groups, including the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence—NJ, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the National Association of Social Workers—New Jersey, Integrity House, the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, Well of Hope Drop-in Center, the Atlantic City Syringe Access Program, the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, Camden Area Health Education Center, the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, the New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs Association, Paterson Counseling Center, the ACLU of New Jersey, COPE Center, Buddies of New Jersey, Inc., the Hepatitis C Association, Parent to Parent, Daytop Village of New Jersey, the Center for Family Services, the New Jersey Woman and AIDS Network and American Habitare and Counseling, Inc.

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.