March 11, 2015

Kaine, Markey, Ayotte Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Help Prevent Heroin And Prescription Drug Overdoses

Bill protects first responders, family members and volunteers who are educated to administer opioid overdose prevention drug like naloxone

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act to protect first responders, health professionals and family members who are educated in administering an opioid overdose prevention drug, such as naloxone (also known as Narcan) in an emergency situation of overdose. Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

“Opioid abuse has become an epidemic that poses significant economic and public health challenges for communities across Virginia,” said Kaine. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to protect ‘Good Samaritans’ who administer opioid overdose drugs to those whose lives may be in danger. Last summer, I participated in a Project REVIVE training session in Lebanon to learn how to administer the lifesaving drug naloxone, and heard firsthand how opioid overdose programs can be critical to preventing drug-related deaths. I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation and I look forward to continue working with state and federal officials to combat drug abuse.”

Every day, 120 people die as a result of drug overdoses fueled by prescription painkillers. Between 2000 and 2013, the rate of death from heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled. Nationwide, drug overdoses now claim more lives than motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, the willingness of individuals to administer opioid overdose prevention drugs may be deterred by the potential for a lawsuit. And the willingness of physicians who are authorized to prescribe opioid overdose drugs to persons other than a patient also may be deterred by potential civil liability. 

The legislation received praise from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has worked to expand civil protections for “Good Samaritans” at the state level.

“A uniform, national policy on civil liability, like the one proposed by Senator Kaine, will save lives and give more Americans the chance to access the treatment they need to beat an addiction to heroin or prescription opioids,” said Herring. “I'm grateful for Senator Kaine's continuing engagement and leadership on this crisis at the federal level, as well as the efforts of Governor McAuliffe and the bipartisan group of legislators who worked with my office to enact important state-level reforms this year.”

“No one should be afraid to save a life because of a lawsuit,” said Markey. “We cannot allow the prescription drug epidemic to spread from the emergency room to the courtroom as a result of good Samaritans administering lifesaving drugs like naloxone to prevent overdoses. This legislation is an important step to help protect the first responders, volunteers, and family members who are on the front lines of preventing overdoses and working to end the scourge of prescription drug and heroin addiction in Massachusetts and across the country. I thank Senator Ayotte for her partnership on this effort to combat the opiates epidemic and call on my Senate colleagues to join us in responding to a crisis that knows no state boundaries.”  

“As we work to address New Hampshire’s growing heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemics, we also need to ensure that our first responders, firefighters, and law enforcement officials have all the resources they need to save lives in the event of an overdose,” said Ayotte. “This bipartisan legislation will provide important liability protections for law enforcement, first responders, firefighters and other properly trained individuals who administer naloxone in an emergency overdose situation.”

The Opioid Overdose Prevention Act exempts from civil liability:

  • Individuals who work or volunteer at an opioid overdose program from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they provide as a part of an opioid overdose program;
  • Health care professionals 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; and
  • Individuals, including first responders, who administer an opioid overdose drug to a person who is or reasonably appears to have suffered an overdose 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.

The bill is endorsed by: Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), 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), Learn to Cope, Association of Behavioral Healthcare, Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association, and the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems.

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