The state senate has approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville), to increase access to naloxone, the drug-overdose antidote to a variety of opiates, including heroin. If timely administered, naloxone is specifically used to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system and has been highly successful in preventing overdose deaths.
The bill is scheduled for a vote in the Civil Justice Subcommittee in the house of representatives on Wednesday.
“Drug overdoses are preventable and too many families are losing a race against time as they struggle to find help for their addicted loved ones,” said Senator Overbey. “Unfortunately, many young people never make it through the doors of a treatment center to receive the drug. This legislation allows a person, after receiving appropriate instruction, to administer the prescribed antidote to help avoid a tragedy.”
“Lifesaving if needed, harmless if not, naloxone is already widely used by healthcare providers around Tennessee--but imagine the horrified parent confronted with a child who has overdosed in their home; minutes count and their ability to give naloxone means the difference between a chance at recovery and the tragedy of a funeral,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Health, Dr. John Dreyzehner, “As we work to stem this deadly epidemic, improving access to naloxone will literally save lives of our children, parents, siblings and friends around Tennessee.”
Senate Bill 1631 would authorize health care professionals to prescribe the drug naloxone to a person at risk of experiencing an opiate-related overdose. It would also allow the physician to prescribe the drug to a family member, friend or other person in a position to assist a person experiencing an opiate-related overdose, as long as the doctor provides written communication establishing a factual basis that a person is at risk. The bill provides a prescribing physician or person administering the drug immunity from civil liability.
“Over the last decade, drug addiction has become a widespread problem in our state, and in too many cases, this addiction leads to loss of life,” said Rep. Williams. “I believe we must do all we can to prevent such tragedies from taking place, and that is why I am sponsoring this legislation in the House. Combined with other initiatives currently being worked on, we all truly hope this legislation provides families with another means of protecting their loved ones from the unfortunate reality of drug addiction.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that every 19 minutes, one person dies from an accidental overdose from prescription drug abuse. Law enforcement authorities told lawmakers last month that heroin is on the rise in Tennessee.
“We are very pleased that this bill has been approved by the senate, and hopeful that it will pass the House and be signed into law,” Senator Overbey said.