Bill protects first responders, family members and volunteers who are educated to administer opioid overdose prevention drug like naloxone


Washington (March 11, 2015) – Every day, 120 people die as a result of drug overdoses fueled by prescription painkillers. Between 2000 and 2013, the rate of death from heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled. Nationwide, drug overdoses now claim more lives than motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, the willingness of individuals to administer opioid overdose prevention drugs may be deterred by the potential for a lawsuit. And the willingness of physicians who are authorized to prescribe opioid overdose drugs to persons other than a patient also may be deterred by potential civil liability.  Today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act to protect first responders, health professionals and family members who are educated in administering an opioid overdose prevention drug, such as naloxone (also known as Narcan) in an emergency situation of overdose. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.


More than 7,900 people died of opioid overdoses between 2000 and 2013 in Massachusetts; 978 of those deaths were in 2013 alone. Last week, six people overdosed on heroin within a 48-hour period in Lynn, resulting in three deaths.


“No one should be afraid to save a life because of a lawsuit,” said Senator Markey. “We cannot allow the prescription drug epidemic to spread from the emergency room to the courtroom as a result of good Samaritans administering lifesaving drugs like naloxone to prevent overdoses. This legislation is an important step to help protect the first responders, volunteers, and family members who are on the front lines of preventing overdoses and working to end the scourge of prescription drug and heroin addiction in Massachusetts and across the country. I thank Senator Ayotte for her partnership on this effort to combat the opiates epidemic and call on my Senate colleagues to join us in responding to a crisis that knows no state boundaries.” 


“As we work to address New Hampshire’s growing heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemics, we also need to ensure that our first responders, firefighters, and law enforcement officials have all the resources they need to save lives in the event of an overdose,” said Senator Ayotte. “This bipartisan legislation will provide important liability protections for law enforcement, first responders, firefighters and other properly trained individuals who administer naloxone in an emergency overdose situation.”


“Opioid abuse has become an epidemic that poses significant economic and public health challenges for communities across Virginia,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to protect ‘Good Samaritans’ who administer opioid overdose drugs to those whose lives may be in danger. Last summer, I participated in a Project REVIVE training session in Lebanon to learn how to administer the lifesaving drug naloxone, and heard firsthand how opioid overdose programs can be critical to preventing drug-related deaths. I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation and I look forward to continue working with state and federal officials to combat drug abuse.”


“Every family member who is living with someone addicted to opiates, whether to prescription pills or heroin, should have naloxone,” said Joanne Peterson, founder and director of Learn to Cope, a Massachusetts organization that provides peer-led support, advocacy and education for family members of those addicted to opiates and other drugs. “Every human life is worth saving, and many who have been saved by a friend or family member have found long-term recovery today. Learn to Cope thanks Senator Markey for being a champion in fighting this epidemic by thinking of the family and friends of those in the grips of addiction.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

The Opioid Overdose Prevention Act exempts from civil liability:

  • Individuals who work or volunteer at an opioid overdose program from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they provide as a part of an opioid overdose program;
  • Health care professionals from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they prescribe or provide to any person provided that person receives education in the proper administration of the opioid overdose drug and steps to be taken after administration of the drug; and
  • Individuals, including first responders, who administer an opioid overdose drug to a person who is or reasonably appears to have suffered an overdose provided they either are doing so pursuant to a prescription or they obtained the overdose drug from an overdose program or a healthcare professional and received education in the proper administration of the overdose drug, including steps to be taken after administration of the drug.


The bill is endorsed by: Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), American Psychiatric Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), American Society of Addiction Medicine, Drug Policy Alliance, Harm Reduction Coalition, New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), Learn to Cope, Association of Behavioral Healthcare, Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association, the American Medical Association, and the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems.