By Kaitlyn Boecker

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Representative Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) have introduced identical legislation in their respective chambers to support the expansion of overdose prevention services. Overdose deaths claimed nearly 44,000 lives in 2013, continuing the steady increase in the number of such deaths every year. The CDC estimates that more than 100 fatal overdoses occur in the U.S. every day; three fourths of those cases involve opioids and nearly nine out of ten are accidental.

A public health emergency of this magnitude cannot be ended without a comprehensive national response. It is past time for health care providers, local, state and federal governments, as well as the public to come together to address this crisis.

Sen. Reed’s and Rep. Edwards’ bills would combat the overdose crisis by supporting community-based efforts to prevent fatal drug overdoses from heroin, opioid pain medications and other drugs. The bill would expand community-based overdose prevention programs that provide training and resources to those likely to witness an overdose, such as first responders and family members.

Community-based overdose prevention programs train people how to recognize the signs of an overdose, seek emergency medical help, and administer naloxone and other first aid. The bills would also provide federal funding for the purchase and distribution of naloxone by community health stakeholders to people at risk of experiencing or witnessing an overdose. The use of naloxone is supported by the Department of Justice, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association. Currently, 34 states have already acted to increase naloxone prescription and use.

The importance of community-based programs and naloxone in combatting overdose death cannot be overstated. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released last week credits overdose prevention programs with training more than 150,000 potential bystanders who successfully reversed more than 26,000 overdoses using naloxone and other rescue techniques.

Despite recognition among federal lawmakers and health authorities that such overdose prevention programs are highly effective at saving lives at low-cost to taxpayers, few federal dollars are currently dedicated to supporting these critical programs. This status quo must change. This is the second year Sen. Reed has introduced his bill, the Overdose Prevention Act, and the sixth that Rep. Edwards has proposed her bill, the Stop Overdose Stat Act.

Interest among lawmakers in Congress in addressing the opioid crisis is growing. Nearly 20 bills related to the opioid issue have been introduced in Congress so far in 2015. Many of these bills invest in research and treatment options to reduce opioid misuse and overdose. As overdose deaths continue to increase and affect every corner of our nation, we can hope Congress will finally be spurred to act by the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. We cannot rely on punitive measures that crack down on doctors and patients to reduce misuse and overdose.

The Overdose Prevention Act and Stop Overdose Stat Act will establish a comprehensive national response to the opioid overdose crisis, saving lives and sparing countless families from enduring the heart-wrenching loss of a loved one to an overdose. We must advocate for Congress to take action to curb overdose deaths by passing these, and other harm reduction measures.

Kaitlyn Boecker is policy associate for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Kaitlyn Boecker
Date Published: June 29, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Via:: Ddrug Policy Alliance