Legislators OK tool to halt opiate overdoses

Auto-injector, much like an EpiPen, can reverse effect of heroin to get person help

State Sen. Alan Bates introduced a bill this legislative session that allows the public to possess a life-saving injection — much like an EpiPen, an auto-injector used for life-threatening allergic reactions — that will temporarily stop the effects of an opiate overdose.

SB 384 was approved overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate in the spring and became effective June 6.

Inspired by Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County's top health official, the bill allows those who have completed training to possess and administer naloxone, also known as Narcan, to stop an opiate overdose.

"It was one of those things we've talked about, and we decided it's time to do this with the increasing number of deaths from accidental overdose," says Bates.

The injection can be administered by a medical professional or by a friend or family member of someone who is overdosing on heroin or other opiates.

"People will have to be trained to use it," says Bates. "We're seeing more and more heroin being used, and this will reverse the effect of heroin."

The reprieve lasts for about 15 minutes, long enough to get the patient to a hospital where professionals can intervene.

"If you've got this in the house, or wherever you're at, you can give them this to help them," Bates says. "There's very little downside to using it. It's been used in several big cities, like San Francisco, and it works."

Bates hopes that Narcan can give an addict a second chance at getting treatment and eventually becoming clean and sober.

"We're seeing resurgence in heroin use. The idea is to — especially for people who are actively overdosing, or especially the young — to get them some help. Hopefully get them off heroin and narcotics," Bates says.

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