State Rep. Tom O'Dea, R-New Canaan, lauded the unanimous passage of House Bill 5487 by the House of Representatives.
The bill, An Act Providing Immunity to a Person who Administers an Opioid Antagonist to Another Person Experiencing an Opioid-related Drug Overdose, was introduced through the Judiciary Committee by O'Dea.
In 2012, the House passed a law allowing friends and family to obtain a prescription for naloxone if they suspect opioid abuse by a loved one. However, under that statute, only licensed medical practitioners were immune from prosecution if they administer the drug to someone experiencing an overdose.
House Bill 5487 would extend immunity from criminal or civil prosecution to anyone administering the anti-overdose drug who is deemed to be acting in "good faith" and reasonable care.
"Throughout the nation, and Connecticut in particular, the rise in deaths from heroin overdoses has been shocking," O'Dea said. "Many of these heroin users start down this deadly path by abusing prescription medications, which can be just as dangerous when abused. This is a common-sense bill that will save lives and give some relief to those who have a loved one suffering from drug addiction."
The bill, which is awaiting a vote in the state Senate, extends its protections to those administering an "opioid antagonist," which for the purposes of the bill refers to "naloxone hydrochloride or any other similarly acting and equally safe drug approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of drug overdose."
Naloxone is often referred to as Narcan, which is a brand-name version of the drug.
"This medication can be extremely effective in reversing a life-threatening overdose when administered in time. This legislation sends a message to anyone that is at the scene of an overdose that they can administer naloxone in an effort to save that person's life without hesitation over liability concerns," O'Dea added. "This issue was originally brought to my attention by my constituent Jeff Holland and Ingrid Gillespie of the Connecticut Prevention Network, and I thank them for their support."
Holland and Gillespie previously worked together as members of a team that included the state Department of Consumer Protection and local police departments to prevent prescription drug misuse by establishing a statewide medication drop box program.
According to Gillespie, the Connecticut Prevention Network supports this life-saving intervention, known as a "harm reduction strategy," as part of a more comprehensive effort that includes strategies to address the demand and supply of prescription and illicit opiates.
"We so appreciate Representative O'Dea's quick action in helping to bring this important bill to the floor," said Holland. "Because of his efforts and those of many others, lives will be saved."
O'Dea represents the 125th General Assembly District, which covers most of New Canaan and part of Wilton.
He serves on the Legislature's Judiciary, Environment, and Transportation Committees.