Ward Announces Legislation to Help Prevent Overdose Deaths

Greensburg, PA– State Senator Kim Ward (R-39) is introducing legislation that would allow non-health care providers to administer Naloxone (Narcan) to prevent deaths caused by opioid or heroin overdoses.

Senator Ward’s legislation would allow trained first responders to administer Narcan to an individual suffering from an opioid-related or heroin overdose.  The bill would also allow health-care practitioners to prescribe, dispense or distribute Narcan to a family member, friend or other person in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, so long as that person has completed a training course approved by the Department of Health and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

 “Overdose deaths due to heroin or other opiate-related drugs are a major problem not only in my legislative district, but throughout the Commonwealth and the nation,” Ward said.   “Narcan, which can be administered through a nasal spray or by a shot, acts as an immediate antidote to a heroin or opioid overdose.  It is harmless if administered by accident – but it could be lifesaving during an overdose. ”

 The bill would also provide immunity from civil liability or criminal prosecution for first responders, practitioners and any person who administers Narcan to a person suffering an overdose so long as they follow the requirements of the law.  The Department of Health is also directed to collect data on the number of opioid-related overdoses and the use of Narcan in those cases.  PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis has issued an early endorsement for this effort.

 “We’re losing far too many of our loved ones to the current epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid overdoses.  Our most urgent priority must be to save lives; the wider access to naloxone envisioned in Senator Ward’s legislation will accomplish just that,” stated Secretary Tennis.  In addition he also emphasized the benefits of treatment as a means for those addicted to lead better lives.

 As of January 1, 2014, sixteen states have passed laws that allow for practitioners to prescribe and dispense Narcan and for lay-persons to administer it.  Communities that have gone this route have reported a significant reduction in overdose-related deaths compared to those that have not.

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Contact: Thomas Aikens; 724-600-7002; taikens@pasen.gov