PITTSFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The heroin epidemic is not only a crisis in Massachusetts, but nationwide. 22News found out how a bill on Capitol Hill could help save lives here.
Congressman Richard Neal is one of the sponsors of the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act. The bill is a balance between saving lives and protecting emergency responders who administer life saving drugs.
More than 7000 people have died from Heroin overdoses in Massachusetts alone in the past decade. The rate of non-fatal overdoses are also rising, due to drugs like Narcan.
“We do want to save them and there’s another part of our potential here and that’s getting them into a successful rehab initiative, in that sense Narcan hopefully becomes a transitional phase that gets them back on their feet,” said Rep. Neal.
If this bill passes, the people administering the drug will be protected from any lawsuits.
A 22News I-Team report in November discovered that more than 100 people died of a heroin overdose in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties from 2013 to June of 2014.
The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015
Over the last decade, overdoses from opioids have increased dramatically in the United States. Every day, 120 people die as a result of drug overdose fueled by prescription painkillers, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments for the misuse or abuse of drugs. Nationwide, drug overdoses now claim more lives than motor vehicle accidents.
In the United States, prescription opioid abuse costs were about $55.7 billion in 2007. Of this amount, 46% was attributable to workplace costs (e.g., lost productivity), 45% to healthcare costs (e.g., abuse treatment), and 9% to criminal justice costs. The absolute scale of this is dramatic: roughly 420,040 emergency room visits each year are attributed to misuse or abuse of opioid pain medications.
Death from heroin and other opioid drugs may be prevented if the victim is administered an opioid overdose drug, such as naloxone (aka Narcan), in a timely manner. Several states, including Massachusetts, have established programs allowing for the administration of opioid overdose drugs by non-medical personnel, including first responders, family members, and friends. These programs have saved thousands of lives.
However, the willingness of medical and non-medical personnel to administer opioid overdose drugs may be deterred by potential civil liability. And the willingness of physicians to prescribe opioid overdose drugs to persons other than a patient may also be deterred by potential civil liability.
The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015:
- Exempts from civil liability individuals who provide or administer an opioid overdose drug under certain circumstances:
- Exempts health care professionals from civil liability from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they prescribe or provide to any person provided that person receives education in the proper administration of the opioid overdose drug and steps to be taken after administration of the drug.
- Exempts individuals who work or volunteer at an opioid overdose program from civil liability from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they provide as a part of an opioid overdose program
- Exempts individuals, including police and other responders, who administer an opioid overdose drug to a person who is or reasonably appears to have suffered an overdose from civil liability provided they either are doing so pursuant to a prescription or they obtained the overdose drug from an overdose program or a healthcare professional and received education in the proper administration of the overdose drug, including steps to be taken after administration of the drug.
- Allows states to override the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act if they enact specific legislation pursuant to the Act.
The bill is endorsed by the following organizations:
- Trust for America’s Health (TFAH)
- American Medical Association
- American Psychiatric Association
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
- Community Anti-drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)
- American Society of Addiction Medicine
- Drug Policy Alliance
- Harm Reduction Coalition
- New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police
- Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR)
- Association of Behavioral Healthcare, Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association
- Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems
- American Medical Response
- American Ambulance Association