Opioid Overdose Prevention Bill Sails Through New Mexico State Legislature with Unanimous Support

Press Release February 17, 2016
Media Contact

<h2 class="subtitle">
<p>Emily Kaltenbach (505) 920-5256<br />
Tony Newman (646) 335-5384</p>

SANTA FE – An opioid overdose prevention bill has sailed through the New Mexico State Legislature with unanimous support. House Bill 277 sponsored by Rep. McMillan, R-Las Cruces, has passed the legislature and now heads to Governor Susana Martinez’s desk for consideration. An identical bill (SB 262) introduced by Senator Martinez, D-Rio Arriba also passed the legislature.  Both bills allow for the possession, distribution and storage of an opiate overdose antidote (Naloxone or Narcan ®) by individuals and community organizations under a standing order and relieves individuals or registered overdose prevention and education programs from civil liability.

The bill, if signed into legislation by the Governor, will make it easier for community organizations, jails, treatment programs, and first responders to distribute naloxone and provides legal protection to laypeople encouraging them to administer naloxone in overdose situations where every second counts. Under current law, only licensed medical providers, pharmacists and certain Department of Health staff are allowed to dispense and store naloxone. The current practice has severely restricted access to naloxone in many parts of the State, especially in the rural areas. The bill has an emergency clause, meaning the law takes effect immediately after the Governor signs.

In 2014, New Mexico’s drug overdose death rate was nearly double that of the national rate, with 547 New Mexicans dying of a drug overdose. Overdose deaths exceed deaths from motor vehicle crashes, firearms and falls. This same year, Rio Arriba County had the highest overdose death rate in the nation with 1 in 500 people dying from a drug overdose.  Since 2000, the rate of death from drug overdose in New Mexico increased 101%.

Jennifer Weiss-Burke, Executive Director, Healing Addiction in Our Community & Serenity Mesa Youth Recovery Center: “Healing Addiction in Our Community (HAC) supports this legislation because naloxone saves lives. Every day I work with parents whose children struggle with opiate addiction. These parents know that having access to naloxone is the difference between life and death for our children.”

Bernie Lieving LMSW, Community and Policy Advocate, Southwest CARE Center: “This legislation is critical in increasing community-based access to both naloxone and overdose prevention education. Southwest CARE Center supports this legislation because overdose death in New Mexico is a public health crisis, and until the federal government makes naloxone available over the counter, this legislation is a big step.”

Emily Kaltenbach, State Director, Drug Policy Alliance: “This legislation represents a bright spot in an otherwise tough on crime session where, unfortunately, there were legislative proposals treating addiction as a criminal issue not a health matter. As a state that has had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation for most of the last two decades, New Mexico needs to do more to curb overdose deaths. Our State must increase access to medication assisted treatment in our communities and in the jails and be willing to try evidence-based programs such as heroin assisted treatment that dozens of countries in Europe and Canada have implemented. Heroin-assisted treatment is a feasible, effective, and cost-saving strategy for reducing drug use and drug-related harm among long-term heroin users for whom other treatment programs have failed.”

Naloxone (also called Narcan®), FDA approved since 1971, is an inexpensive, generic drug that works to reverse an opioid overdose by restoring breath to unconscious overdose victims. The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until one to three hours after they have taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others. This leaves a significant amount of time for witnesses to intervene and call for medical help. In addition to calling 911 for help, witnesses to opiate overdoses can administer the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. It is standard practice for emergency personnel to administer naloxone when summoned to the scene of an overdose, and precious time can be saved and deaths prevented if laypeople who witness an overdose have the ability to administer naloxone as well. It has no addictive properties and few side effects, making it safe for laypeople to administer.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.