PRESS RELEASE – 3/27/14
Contact: Matt Curtis, 646-234-9062
Today the Senate voted unanimously (58-0) to pass legislation (S6477/A8637) sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and a diverse bipartisan coalition of Senators that will vastly expand access to a life-saving medication called naloxone (Narcan) that can prevent overdose deaths involving heroin and prescription opioids. The Assembly is expected to pass a companion bill sponsored by Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) shortly.
“This is the single best action the legislature could take today to immediately and directly reduce overdose deaths,” said Matt Curtis, VOCAL-NY’s Policy Director. “Community health organizations have a huge amount of unused capacity to deliver overdose prevention education and naloxone to those in need, but we’ve been hamstrung by having only a limited number of prescribers involved in this work — in large part due to inadequate funding. Senator Hannon’s and Assembly Member Dinowitz’s bill will help solve this problem.”
“It has been estimated that heroin addiction on Long Island has increased nearly fourfold since 2011. This crisis is not unique to Long Island, it is ravaging communities across the state” said Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau). “Enhancing access to Naloxone is a necessary step to fighting this crisis. Access to this opioid antidote will equip families and loved ones likely to discover an overdose victim with the ability to save their life.”
Naloxone is a safe, easy-to-administer, and highly effective overdose antidote that has been distributed to people likely to witness an opioid overdose in New York since 2004. The legislation is an opportunity to expand access to this life-saving medication for those in need by making it easier for healthcare organizations and pharmacies to distribute naloxone through non-patient specific orders.
“Since the 1990s, Buffalo’s Evergreen Health Services has worked to inform and empower people who use drugs without judgment,” said Ron Silverio, President and CEO. “Through the people we serve, we see every day how hard Western New York has been hit by the overdose epidemic. By ensuring that people who use drugs have access to proper healthcare and supportive services – including naloxone overdose prevention kits – clients are more likely to reduce their dependence on illegal substances. We can do so much more to respond to this crisis, and passing this bill will give us the ability to do just that.”
Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York. New evidence points to an increasing number of people transitioning from prescription painkillers to heroin, which is leading to greater overdose rates.
“Naloxone is a lifesaving medication that is safer than many over the counter medications,” said Dr. Sharon Stancliff, Medical Director for the Harm Reduction Coalition. “Learning to use naloxone is easy. It needs to be available to people who may be present at overdose- parents, drug treatment providers, first responders without the barrier of having the added expense of having a medical person available to dispense it.”
“Accidental drug overdoses have reached epidemic proportions, and no community in our state is unaffected,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), sponsor of the Assembly’s companion bill. “This legislation builds on a law I sponsored in 2006 by strengthening access to one of the best tools we have to prevent overdose deaths — the antidote medication naloxone, which has been distributed to family members and people at risk of overdose for a decade in New York. That, plus education, has saved many lives in the past several years.”
Over thirty leading community health organization in New York have endorsed the legislation, among them the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Executive director Jeff Reynolds has backed the bill, noting that “as Long Island struggles with an historic opiate crisis and record overdose fatalities, this bill streamlines access to naloxone and helps us get it into the hands of families who need it. “Naloxone saves lives and gives people struggling with addiction a second chance at life and a second chance to experience the miracle of recovery.”
US Attorney General Eric Holder recently endorsed expanding naloxone access in response to the nation’s overdose crisis, joining the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, American Medical Association and many other leading national and international organizations.