Schuitmaker, Forlini bills let families, friends treat heroin overdose

For Immediate Release:
March 11, 2014

Contact: Derek Sova

LANSING, Mich.—Legislation introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and state Rep. Anthony Forlini would enable friends and families of recovering drug users to obtain and administer a life-saving drug during an accidental overdose.

Schuitmaker, R-Lawson, and Forlini, R-Harrison Township, said that the bills are necessary because drug addicts trying to kick an opioid habit who relapse and overdose are rarely able to administer life-saving drugs such as Nalaxone to themselves. Opioid drugs include heroin. State Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi, sponsor of similar legislation.

Schuitmaker said the bills also require first-responder medical teams to have the opioid antagonists, drugs that counteract the effects of an overdose, on hand in the event of an overdose.

“Family, friends and emergency medical technicians are usually the first ones present in an overdose situation and they have the best chance of intervening,” Schuitmaker said. “Under this legislation, life-support vehicles must carry the drugs to offset overdoses, and the emergency technicians must be trained in the administration of the drugs.”

Forlini concurred, “This is common-sense legislation that allows a recovering addict’s responsible loved ones to help save that person’s life if they are experiencing an overdose because of a relapse,” Forlini said. “It is unrealistic to think that someone who is in the midst of an overdose would be able to recognize that fact and administer the drugs on their own.”

Currently, Nalaxone and other opioid antagonists can only be prescribed to the recovering drug addict. Under the Forlini and Schuitmaker bills, doctors may prescribe the antagonist drugs to family members or a friend of the individual who is in a position to help if an overdose occurs. Those administering the antagonist drugs and the pharmacist or prescriber of the drug would be shielded from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution if they were acting in good faith.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have amended laws to allow increased access to blocking agents that can decrease the effects of an overdose. Fatal heroin overdoses increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, with 3,038 such deaths reported that year, and the numbers are believed to still be on the rise, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to recent news reports, emergency use of opioid antagonists resulted in more than 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.

SBs 857-860 have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and HBs 5404-5407 have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.