Tomorrow in Western Mass., lawmaker will hold second discussion on heroin, prescription drug overdose crisis

Washington (March 6, 2014) – As the number of heroin and prescription drug overdoses rises to epidemic levels across the nation, today Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act to protect individuals who administer lifesaving opioid overdose prevention drugs. Death from heroin and other opioid overdoses may be prevented if a victim is administered an opioid overdose prevention drug, such as naloxone, in a timely manner. However, the willingness of medical and non-medical personnel to provide and administer overdose drugs may be deterred by potential civil liability. Senator Markey’s legislation will ensure that individuals who have been properly trained and who administer an opioid prevention drug are protected from civil liability. The bill also ensures that health care professionals who prescribe an opioid overdose drug to a person at risk of overdose or a third party, such as a family member of an abuser, are not liable for civil suits. 

Approximately 38,000 people die each year from drug overdoses, or more than 100 per day. Nationwide, drug overdoses now claim more lives than motor vehicle accidents. In Massachusetts, State Police report 185 people have died from heroin overdoses in the past four months, a number that doesn’t account for the state’s three largest cities Boston, Springfield and Worcester.

“No one should be afraid to save a life because of legal liability,” said Senator Markey. “The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act removes the fear of legal jeopardy for family members, friends and other bystanders who administer lifesaving drugs like naloxone. We must take action now to immediately interrupt the heroin and prescription drug epidemic and reduce its tragic effects.” 

“Families and communities grappling with the opioid overdose crisis are turning to naloxone as a crucial life-saving tool,” said Daniel Raymond, Policy Director for the Harm Reduction Coalition. “Harm Reduction Coalition applauds Senator Markey’s leadership and urges swift action from Congress on this vital legislation.”

A copy of the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act can be found HERE. A one-page summary of the legislation can be found HERE. 

The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2014:

• Exempts health care professionals from civil liability 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;
• Exempts individuals who work or volunteer at an opioid overdose program from civil liability from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they provide as a part of an opioid overdose program;
• Exempts individuals who administer an opioid overdose drug to a person who is or reasonably appears to have suffered an overdose from civil liability provided they obtained the overdose drug from an overdose program or a health care professional and received education in the proper administration of the overdose drug.