WNYT: Bill would expand access to drug that counteracts heroin, some painkillers

News Channel 13 WNYT

Bill would expand access to drug that counteracts heroin, some painkillers

(Watch the video segment online)

05/08/2014 | By: Steve Flamisch

ALBANY – State lawmakers have passed a bill that would expand access to the drug naloxone (Narcan), which can reverse an overdose of opioids such as heroin and morphine.

While many drug treatment centers, syringe exchange programs, and a growing number of law enforcement agencies have Narcan, advocates want family and friends of drug users to have it, too.

“When seconds count — when someone is not breathing, or not breathing enough to survive — this medication is so easy to use,” said Matt Curtis, policy director of VOCAL New York.

The bill, passed unanimously in the Assembly and Senate, would allow health care professionals and pharmacies to distribute Narcan, without a prescription, to at-risk people and those who know them.

“This will just really make it so much easier to get people the medication as much, and when and where they need it,” Curtis said.

Advocate Robert Suarez has heard the argument against Narcan: that drug users may view it as a safety net. He called that an outdated viewpoint, noting that he once used the drug to save a man.

“I saved that life and brought that person back from death,” Suarez, a community leader with VOCAL New York, told NewsChannel 13. “I can’t begin to tell you how exhilarating that is.”

It was unclear late Wednesday whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to sign the bill into law. It passed the Senate on March 27, and passed the Assembly on Tuesday.

“We will be reviewing this legislation, as well as other ways to combat heroin addiction in New York,” a spokesman said. “There is no doubt that this is a critically important issue that needs to be addressed.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D – Bronx) and Sen. Kemp Hannon (R – Garden City) introduced the legislation in their respective chambers.

In a related story, Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Cindy Madison used Narcan to save a man’s life last week, the Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

Madison had just received training on the use of Narcan fewer than 48 hours earlier, the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.

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