An opiate overdose can often mean the last bad choice an addict makes, even one attempting recovery. But while oftentimes people watching an overdose happen have only been able to call 911 and wait, a bill at the Legislature would allow for the wider use of Narcan, a treatment that when given to a person experiencing an overdose can bring them back to life almost immediately.---
House Bill 119, sponsored by Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, would allow doctors to prescribe Narcan to people who may have friends of family at risk of an overdose, whether that's someone taking pain medications following a surgery or an addict, especially one going through recovery. Moss pointed out that often a recovering addict that relapses might have lost their tolerance for an opiate such as heroine and when they take the same hit they'd become accustomed to when they used more regularly, its often enough to push them into an overdose.
Moss referred to a handout showing numerous supporters of the bill in Utah ranging from members of the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Board of Pharmacy to Salt Lake City Police Department Chief Chris Burbank.
“I've met personally a number of families who have lost a loved one to an overdose and they are so pleased that something like this might save another family the grief they've gone through,” Moss said.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, however referred to the list of supporters as the “United Federation of Drug Pushers,” in arguing that the bill might incentivize bad behavior.
“This is the perfect example of having an ambulance waiting at the bottom of a cliff instead of building a fence fence around the edge of the cliff,” Christensen said. He also challenged that Narcan couldn't be used properly if it was just given to anyone, especially those without medical training, since currently the drug is used only by doctors and emergency medical technicians.
Moss' bill was backed in the Senate by Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, a doctor in private practice who was HB 119's co-sponsor. Shiozawa told Christensen that the bill is backed by numerous studies showing it saves lives and that it can't practically be abused. He even pointed out that if it was accidentally used by a child it wouldn't cause significant harm.
“This is a potentially life saving bill and I don't see there's much of a downside,” Shiozawa said.
Despite that Christensen considered it a bill that “I don't want my name associated with.”
His colleagues on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee disagreed, however, and voted the bill out favorably, three yea votes to Christensen's sole nay vote. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for further debate, where if it passes will then go on to the Governor for passage into law.
To read HB 119 click here. To contact Rep. Moss about her bill click here. To find your legislator to contact them about this bill click here. For more updates from the hill viswit CityWeekly.net and follow @EricSPeterson and @ColbyFrazierLP on Twitter.