PR: Attorney General Schneiderman Takes on Overdose Crisis

Press Release | 4/3/14 | Drug Policy Alliance & VOCAL NY

NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Takes on Overdose Crisis, Introduces Country’s First Statewide Naloxone Program for Use by Law Enforcement

Announcement Comes as FDA Announces Approval of Innovative New Device to Reverse Opiate Overdose
Expanding Access to Naloxone will Save Lives, Curb Overdose Epidemic 

NEW YORK – Today Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, which will enable every state and local law enforcement officer in the state of New York to carry naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal antidote. COP will provide funding to equip every state or local officer with naloxone, known under the brand name Narcan, and train the officers to properly administer the life-saving drug. It is the country’s first statewide naloxone law enforcement distribution program.

“Naloxone is stunningly effective at stopping an overdose in its tracks, and putting this powerful antidote in the hands of every law-enforcement agent in the state will save countless lives,”  said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Naloxone is not new to New York. For over 10 years, local health officials and frontline workers have engaged in overdose prevention and saving lives by providing naloxone and overdose trainings throughout the state. But the programs have been largely under-funded, receiving a small fraction of the funding now being made available to police agencies through the Attorney General’s office.

“We commend AG Schneiderman for this decision,” said Matt Curtis, policy director for VOCAL-NY, an organization that advocates for overdose prevention policies. “All the same, it’s people who use drugs, their family and friends who are the most important first responders in an overdose emergency. We want police to be equipped, but the state’s paltry investment in community-based naloxone programs is outrageous.”

Accidental drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death nationally and in New York, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have recently amended their laws to increase access to naloxone – with DPA spearheading many of these efforts – resulting in more than 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001. In fact, a 2010 CDC report credits overdose education and naloxone distribution programs with more than 10,000 documented overdose reversals since 1996.

“This program will save lives and catalyze additional action in our state and across the country for addressing the overdose crisis with smart, health-based innovations,” said gabriel sayegh, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “With Schneiderman equipping law enforcement with naloxone, we can now turn our attention to expanding naloxone access for community health organizations, which have a huge amount of unused capacity to deliver overdose prevention education to those in need.”

“Not a day goes by that I don’t wish that my son’s life could have been saved through programs such as this” , said Jack Mack, of Croton on Hudson, whose son died of an overdose.  “This program is definitely a positive development that will greatly improve the chances of individuals surviving opioid overdose. I have already reached out to Croton’s police department to encourage them to participate in the program and I plan to work with the Croton Community Coalition to raise public awareness of the importance of continuing to expand naloxone access.”

Studies show that most overdoses occur in the presence of others – and there is a 1-3 hour window in which an opioid overdose can be reversed, making most deaths preventable. Naloxone, if administered during an overdose, effectively and safely reverses the overdose and saves lives. In the recent 2013 National Drug Control Strategy report, the Obama administration noted the importance of increasing widespread availability to naloxone, citing research around the efficacy of the life-saving tool and the need to equip health care providers and first responders, like police officers, with the antidote.

This year, Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) introduced an opioid overdose prevention bill (S6477/A8637).  This legislation would expand access to the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone to community based organization and community health workers like peer educators. Last week the Senate unanimously passed the naloxone expansion legislation (S6477/A8637) sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau). The Assembly is expected to pass a companion bill sponsored by Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) shortly.

Also today, in related news, overdose prevention advocates are welcoming the news of a new overdose reversal tool coming to pharmacies this summer. The FDA recently announced approval of Evzio, a handheld device containing naloxone, designed for laypeople to use outside of hospital settings. When activated, the device will give verbal instructions about how to use Evzio to deliver the medication.

In 2011, New York enacted a “911 Good Samaritan” law, which encourages people to call 911 immediately in the event of an overdose.  Under the law, when someone calls 911 in an overdose situation, they will receive limited protections from criminal charge and prosecutions for simple possession of drugs or, for minors, possession of alcohol.

To order overdose prevention and 911 Good Samaritan education materials from the NY Dept. of Health, see: http://www.health.ny.gov/overdose

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Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384, Matt Curtis (646) 234-9062

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