PDT Staff Writer
State Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) has introduced House Bill 170, a bipartisan bill joint sponsored with Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus), that would expand access to Narcan (Naloxone), a drug that reverses the effects of an opiate/opioid overdose in just a few minutes, potentially saving a life.
Johnson said Narcan is a drug with a high safety profile that is non-abusable and has been utilized by emergency room physicians successfully for years. HB 170 would allow a physician or other medical professional with prescriptive authority to personally furnish Narcan to the family or friends of an addict who is at risk of overdosing. The family member or friend could then administer the Narcan by a squirt in the nose of the person overdosing potentially keeping them alive until medical help arrives.
“This is a critical piece of legislation as we continue to fight Ohio’s drug epidemic,” Johnson said. “My House Bill 93 shut down pill mills and dried up supplies of prescription opioids, but it did not cure addiction. We still have all of these addicted people, many of whom are now on heroin. Without access to this lifesaving drug, Narcan, people will die needlessly. There aren’t many bills passed out of Columbus that actually save lives; House Bill 93 is saving lives, and so will this one.”
The bill also takes steps to get Narcan into the hands of more emergency responders and to law enforcement. House Bill 170 would allow EMT-Basics and EMT-Intermediates to have and administer Narcan to a person who is apparently experiencing an overdose. Currently, the only emergency responder lawfully allowed to administer Narcan is a paramedic. Additionally, the bill would allow a law enforcement agency to get licensed with the Board of Pharmacy to stock Narcan and dispense it to its law enforcement officers.
“I’ve seen Narcan save lives in the emergency room,” Johnson said. “But people don’t always make it to the ER. The first people on the scene are often law enforcement and our emergency medical responders. By allowing them to administer this drug in emergency situations, we can help continue our downward trend in drug deaths that we’ve seen in the past year and a half.”
Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided with Naloxone) was recently credited with saving its 14th life according to Lisa Roberts, Public Health Nurse with the Portsmouth City Health Department. Participants of the program are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of overdose and able to distinguish between types of overdoes. Participants also learn how to properly administer Naloxone.
In 2012, the Portsmouth City Health Department was chosen by the Ohio Department of Health to be Ohio’s first Community-Based Naloxone Overdose Reversal Project. Project DAWN started in 2012.
Johnson said the introduction of the bill comes on the heels of the new numbers released from the Scioto County Coroner’s office which showed direct drug deaths in 2012 down to 15 from 21 in 2011. The 2012 number of direct drug deaths was the lowest number since 2004.
“That’s the kind of trend we want to see,” Johnson, who is also a physician, said. “And by getting Narcan into the hands of more citizens in a smart way, we can do even better.”
HB 170 was referred to the House Health and Aging Committee where it will be considered before being voted on by the entire House of Representatives.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.