HARTFORD, CONN. (CBSNewYork/AP) — As heroin use climbs rapidly in Connecticut, state lawmakers are proposing legislation aimed at saving lives from overdoses.
State Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, is pushing for a law that would allow all first responders to carry naloxone — commonly known as Narcan — a drug that reverses the results of a heroin overdose. Under the current state law, only skilled paramedics are authorized to carry the antidote.
Hwang noted that in treating a drug overdose, every second counts.
“I feel very strongly that this is something we should do to help save lives in our community,” Hwang told Schneidau.
Two hundred fifty-seven people in Connecticut died from heroin-related overdoses last year, up from 174 in 2012, the Hartford Courant reported, citing data from the chief medical examiner’s office.
In a video message posted online Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the increase in heroin-related deaths nationwide an “urgent and growing public health crisis,” as he also argued that first responders should carry Narcan.
“Addiction to heroin and other opiates, including certain prescription painkillers, is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life — and all too often, with deadly results,” Holder said in the message.
The attorney general’s public support for Narcan mirrors the position of the White House drug policy office, which has also urged all first responders to have the medication on hand. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia allow Narcan to be distributed to the public, and bills are pending in other states to increase access to it.
In December, officials in Ocean County, N.J., announced police there will carry naloxone.
Advocates say Narcan, which comes in a spray and injectable form, has the potential to save many lives if administered within a certain window. But critics fear that making the antidote too accessible could encourage drug use.
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