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Overdose Immunity Bill Takes Another Positive Step in State House, DiGirolamo Says
9/17/2014
HARRISBURG – Legislation that would help prevent overdoses from becoming fatal has been approved by the state House and sent back to the Senate for agreement, said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks).

Senate Bill 1164 contains two important provisions to help save lives in the war against drug overdoses: Grant immunity to those who call for help during an overdose and make a safe and effective antidote more available to family members.

“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,” said DiGirolamo, a long-time advocate for drug and alcohol addiction treatment and education. “It is absolutely vital that families who are coping with a loved one’s addiction have the tools they need in the event of their worst nightmare.”

This summer, DiGirolamo successfully amended Senate Bill 1164 to allow family members and other loved ones of those suffering from an addiction to heroin to obtain a prescription for Narcan, a safe and effective antidote for heroin overdoses.

The legislation would also allow first responders to have access to Narcan, which has been extremely effective in stopping overdoses. A law enforcement agency or fire department would be able to enter into agreements with emergency medical services agencies to obtain a supply of naloxone, an opioid antagonist, and, after receiving training, administer the drug to an individual who has overdosed on an opioid.

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.

In addition, the overall bill intends to prevent overdose deaths by granting 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.

“In order to stop this epidemic of drug overdoses, we need to have every available option on the table,” DiGirolamo said. “In so many cases, someone who overdoses is not alone, but a friend or family member may fear prosecution if they call for help and stay with the victim. 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 also would apply 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 Senate for agreement on the amendments.

Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
717.705.2094
jkeaton@pahousegop.com  
GeneDiGirolamo.com / Facebook.com/GeneDiGirolamo
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