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Opioid Antidote Prescription for Families Added to Overdose Immunity Bill, Says DiGirolamo
6/24/2014
HARRISBURG – A provision in the law that would allow parents, family members and other loved ones to have a heroin antidote on hand in case of an overdose has been successfully added to legislation providing immunity from prosecution for reporting an overdose, said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), who authored the amendment.

“This underlying legislation is an important tool in the fight against both prescription drug and heroin overdoses,” said DiGirolamo, an outspoken and longtime advocate on drug abuse treatment and prevention. “However, I believe it is absolutely the right thing to do to add another vital aspect to the bill and that is allowing family members, in addition to first responders, to have access to Narcan, a safe antidote that has been extremely effective in stopping overdoses.”

Under the DiGirolamo amendment, which passed the House overwhelmingly by a vote of 177-26 today, a prescription for the antidote, also known as Narcan, could be obtained by a family member or friend of someone at risk for an overdose, as well as their loved ones. In an overdose emergency when seconds count, having the antidote on hand would allow earlier dispensing of the drug, thereby reversing the often-deadly effects of the opioid, before medical help could arrive.

According to the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), Narcan distribution programs are in use in 15 states and Washington, D.C. Massachusetts has reported the reversal of 2,000 overdoses since the start of its program.

This amendment goes along with similar language in the legislation, Senate Bill 1164, in which a law enforcement agency or fire department could enter into agreements with emergency medical services agencies to obtain a supply of naloxone, an opioid agonist, and, after receiving training, administer the drug to an individual who has overdosed on an opioid.

Senate Bill 1164 would also establish immunity from prosecution for a probation or parole violation or prosecution of lower-level drug violations. The immunity would only be available if law enforcement officers only became aware of the person’s commission of the offense because the person transported a person experiencing a drug overdose event to a law enforcement agency, a campus security office or a health care facility, or the person reported, in good faith, a drug overdose to authorities.

“Sadly, if a friend sees another friend overdosing on heroin, he or she may fear prosecution and leave the friend to die,” DiGirolamo said. “We need to get these people medical help as fast as possible, and hopefully, with this immunity, more people will be encouraged to call for assistance when seconds count.”
 
The immunity would apply also to the person who suffered the overdose event to the same extent as the person reporting the overdose is entitled to it.
 
Currently, a person who contacts law enforcement or emergency personnel by reporting a drug overdose or transporting someone to get help could face prosecution for possession, use or other offense related to the presence of the controlled substance at the scene. If prosecuted, their emergency telephone call or actions would be admissible against them.
 
The legislation now must be considered by the House a final time before returning to the Senate for agreement on the amendments.

Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact:  Jennifer Keaton
jkeaton@pahousegop.com
GeneDiGirolamo.com / Facebook.com/GeneDiGirolamo
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