Measure will allow public health programs to administer naloxone, prevent fatal overdoses
A bill to increase access to life-saving medication to prevent death from drug overdoses is now law.
“Drug overdose is a serious public health issue in our state,” said Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, the sponsor of the bill. “Too often, family members and loved ones are left asking ‘what if?’ Naloxone is safe and effective, and this new law increases the likelihood that someone present during an overdose will be ready to help prevent tragedy and save a life.”
Naloxone is a drug used to offset the effects of an opiate overdose by counteracting the depression of the respiratory system and the shut-down of the central nervous system. Naloxone is not addictive and does not produce euphoria. It has no effect if there are no narcotics present in a person’s system.
The bill, LD 140, builds on a law enacted last year that allowed immediate family members of drug users to administer the medication. Beck’s bill further allows for the prescription of naloxone to public health agencies operating an overdose prevention program.
Drug-related deaths are on the rise in Maine. According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, 208 Mainers died in 2014 due to drug overdose – an increase from 176 in 2013 – making it the deadliest year on record for drugs users in the state. The number of deaths due to heroin spiked from 34 in 2013 to 57 in 2014.
Since 2001, 16 other states have passed laws making it easier to prescribe, dispense and administer naloxone.
LD 140, which the Legislature passed on June 30, is among the 51 measures that became law without the governor’s signature Sunday.
The governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. If he does not take either of those actions, the bill becomes law if the Legislature has not finally adjourned.
LD 140 is a non-emergency measure that goes into effect 90 days after the Legislature finally adjourns, which has not taken place.
The Legislature will be in session on July 16 to address any vetoes issued by the governor as prescribed by the Maine Constitution.
Beck is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents part of Waterville and Oakland.