The Delaware Senate will consider a bill that makes a drug available without a prescription that supporters argue will save the life of someone overdosing on heroin or other opioids.
The legislation, which cleared a Senate committee Wednesday, allows Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services to distribute Naloxone without a prescription and at little or no cost to anyone who completes a training program.. Officials say the legislation is a tool to combat the growing heroin and opioid epidemic facing the state.
“This legislation will save lives,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown.
Delaware law currently allows friends and family members to purchase the drug when a prescription is written for a person with the addiction. One brand of the drug, Narcan, is available as a nasal spray. In April, the Food and Drug Administration approved an autoinjector-like device for administration of the drug, but the cost of it is unknown.
It could have saved David Humes’s son, Greg, who died of an overdose in 2012. Humes remembers police telling him that his son could have survived if the state had a 911 Good Samaritan or Narcan law.
He lives those words every day of his life, he told the Senate Health and Social Services Committee on Wednesday. Gov. Jack Markell signed the Samaritan law last year.
“Time matters. Give other parents a life-saving tool that I didn’t have,” he said.
It’s not clear how the community-based training program would work, but officials from DHSS are looking at best practices across the nation, said Debbie Gottschalk, the department’s chief policy adviser.
The idea is to get the drug in the hands of more people who are likely to come across overdoses, whether they are community group members, friends or family members, Gottschalk said. Training is needed to help people understand how to administer the medicine, she added.
For Diann Jones, of Middletown, the legislation offers peace of mind.
Her daughter, 22, has been in and out of treatment for heroin and opioid addiction in the past two years. It’s a constant struggle to fight the disease, but the legislation would allow her to help immediately, even if her daughter didn’t seek a prescription, she said.
They recently took a drive to North Carolina, but she would have been powerless if the worst had happened.
“I have no idea what I would have done,” she said.
Emergency Medical Service units in Delaware have administered Naloxone for several years now and 900 unresponsive people were given the drug in 2013. Three hundred were revived, but it is unknown how many had overdosed on opioids.
A pilot project started in March that allows Basic Life Support units to carry the drug in high heroin use areas has already seen results. Units have administered it five times, reviving three people. The drug is administered before police officers arrive at the scene in the vast majority of instances where emergency responders use it.
The legislation provides a front-line defense to a heroin and opioid epidemic, said Joe Connor, president of Addictions Coalition Delaware. Treatment for addiction comes in many forms: abstinence, medicine, education.
“This is kind of the 911 of treatment,” he said. “It brings someone back from an overdose and gives them another opportunity to get treatment.”
The News Journal
9:38 p.m. EDT May 14, 2014
The Newhawks Crew
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