WETHERSFIELD, CT - Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Commissioner Pat Rehmer and other state and local officials, on Tuesday held a bill signing ceremony for legislation (Public Act 14-61) that grants civil and criminal liability protection to a bystander who administers Naloxone Hydrochloride (known as Narcan) in good faith to someone who has overdosed.
The new law is focused on reducing fatalities resulting from heroin and prescription drug overdoses. Narcan is a prescription medication that reverses an opioid overdose. It can be administered by a layperson with minimal training and is most commonly available as either an injection or nasal spray.
“As we work to implement strategies that will prevent overdoses and reduce over-prescribing, it is also imperative that we remove potential barriers to Narcan use,” said Governor Malloy. “This legislation may encourage someone to act to save a life and be the catalyst that causes someone battling addiction to seek treatment.”
The bill signing ceremony followed Governor Malloy’s participation in a multi-state Governor’s summit on Opiate Addictions earlier in the day in which the Governors announced a strategy addressing the epidemic that has impacted families and communities across the New England region.
Connecticut has been actively involved in efforts to combat deaths from overdoses including rapidly linking opiate addicted individuals to medication assisted treatment like Methadone, redoubling efforts to educate the public on the dangers of prescription drugs and heroin and implementing widespread drug take back days and prescription drug drop boxes to safely dispose of unneeded medication.
“We recognized that heroin-involved clients were cycling through detox and not getting priority access to Methadone. The Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services treatment protocol works to interrupt that cycle” said Commissioner Rehmer. “We have not narrowly focused on one or two services but offer a broad spectrum of treatment and recovery support services. We have funded care managers in high need areas so they are available to assist individuals who are ready to access treatment. We have outpatient services, detox services, residential services, peer support and recovery support services. Our prevention efforts include prescription drug take back days, prescription drug drop boxes and media campaigns to increase public awareness.”
“Drug overdose is a leading cause of death due to injury in the United States, and among people 20-64 years old, drug overdose causes more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Naloxone (Narcan) is a safe and effective prescription medicine that reverses an opioid overdose. Last week, the scope of practice for all licensed Connecticut EMS providers was expanded to include the administration of Naloxone. This expansion, like this good Samaritan legislation, are important strategies that will help prevent deaths in Connecticut due to opioid overdose.”
“Our focus has been on limiting improper access to pharmaceutical opioids,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “The state’s Prescription Monitoring Program is an important tool that helps pharmacists and prescribers assure that only medically necessary prescriptions are filled. Our partnership with municipalities to provide convenient medication drop boxes takes no-longer-needed drugs out of homes and away from the easy reach of potential abusers. While prevention and treatment of opioid abuse remains a high priority, this new law will help save the very lives that our prevention and treatment programs hope to help.”
“Drug related overdoses have increased significantly and are the leading cause of accidental deaths in Connecticut,” said State Representative Gerald Fox III, House Chair of the Judiciary Committee (D-Stamford). “Citizens should not fear prosecution in attempting to save a life. Enhancing access by allowing non-medical personnel to carry and administer Narcan, a drug overdose medication, is a step towards treating the epidemic we are experiencing. Saving lives while protecting good Samaritans is good policy.”
In 2012, Governor Malloy signed Public Act 12-159 to allow prescribers to provide naloxone prescriptions to individuals in close contact with a person struggling with opioid addiction so that a medical intervention can occur in the case of an opioid overdose.