By CRISTIAN SALAZAR | April 3, 2014
State Attorney General Eric Schniederman announced Thursday that his office was launching a program to get life-saving drugs that can halt opioid overdoses into the hands of law-enforcement officers across New York.
With overdose deaths from the abuse of powerful prescription drugs increasing, including in New York City, the attorney general said the $5 million program aims to train and equip every state and local police officer with a naloxone kit that includes two syringes of the drug, atomizers to make a nasal spray, sterile gloves and instructions.
Advocates and legislators across the country have been pushing to make naloxone more widely available to police officers, health workers and community members. Here’s what you need to know.
Matt Curtis, policy director of the activist group VOCAL-NY, said Thursday that the attorney general’s office should be commended for its new program. But he said additional funding needs to be directed toward community-based programs that work directly with users. “There’s really no substitute for having people in the community equipped with naloxone themselves, and the skills to respond to an overdose themselves,” he said.
For this reason, he said his group advocates for making sure that drug users themselves are trained in how to respond to the symptoms of overdose. “We of course want them to call 911” if they witness an overdose, he said, but “when seconds count, there’s no reason why the person who is witnessing it shouldn’t be able to respond.”
His group is also advocating for the passage of a state law that it argues would expand access to naloxone by making it easier for healthcare organizations and pharmacies o distribute the medicine. He described it as a way of making it legal for prescribers to “deputize” lay people to provide the prescription-only medication. The city’s Health Department has also said it supports the legislation.
The Senate passed its version of the bill in March; the Assembly is expected to act this month.