Albany- Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) has announced that he is sponsoring legislation in the Assembly, A.8637, which would help prevent accidental opioid overdoses and save thousands of lives in New York by increasing access to the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone. The legislation expands on a 2005 law Assemblyman Dinowitz authored to establish opioid antagonists as effective treatments. If administered during an overdose, Nalaxone can effectively and safely reverses the overdose by blocking the effects of opiates on the body.
“In the last few months and particularly in the last few days there has been a new light shed on accidental overdoses related to opioid abuse” said Assemblyman Dinowitz. “This legislation will create further access to a life-saving drug that when administered properly is known to stop the effects of accidental overdoses. If we create more access in conjunction with ramping up outreach efforts, we can help save thousands of lives each year.”
Accidental drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death in New York, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. Studies have shown that most overdoses are witnessed, and there is a 1-3 hour window in which an opioid overdose can be reversed, making many deaths preventable. Naloxone has proven to be a highly effective tool in reversing overdoses when properly administered.
This new legislation will allow for health care professionals to issue standing orders, also known as non-patient specific prescriptions, to certified training programs that would in turn train individuals on the signs of overdose and provide them with the Naloxone kits. By increasing availability of Nalaxone and access for those most likely to need the antidote, this legislation will decrease the number of accidental deaths caused by accidental opioid overdose dramatically.
The problem of opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the country and although Assemblyman Dinowitz has been working on expanding Nalaxone access for several weeks, two recent headlines, including the tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to a presumed heroin overdose, have highlighted the need to expand opioid treatment options. An instance of a man’s life being saved in Rensselaer County by a sheriff’s deputy trained as an EMT who administered Nalaxone has also been in the news, and serves as a reminder that overdoses can be effectively treated with lives saved. Both tragedies show just how widespread the problem is, both geographically and societally.
“Now is the time to take the next step in expanding access to this critical antidote. Law enforcement organizations are taking steps to train their members in administration, community based organizations are asking for help in obtaining more Naloxone, and the families of victims and potential victims of accidental overdose are asking for our help,” said Dinowitz. “I call on my colleagues to join me in supporting this vital legislation.”
Matt Curtis, policy director for VOCAL New York said that "New York public health agencies already have a 10 year history of overdose prevention work, and for us this bill is a godsend. There is simply no better way to rapidly increase our ability to get naloxone and overdose education to those in need. That goes double for Upstate and Long Island communities, which have been under-served to date."
The legislation in the State Senate, S.6744, is sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon. The bill was reported out of the Senate Health Committee this week, there has been no action yet in the Assembly.