Harm Reduction Coalition Media Advisory
For Immediate Release: August 3, 2012
Contact: Hilary McQuie 510-444-6969 x11
Bipartisan Federal Plan Proposed to Reduce National Overdose Epidemic
Support Sought to Expand Take-Home Naloxone Prevention Community Programs
Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), along with Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and twenty-six other Members of Congress, introduced HR 6311: the Stop Overdose Stat (S.O.S.) Act yesterday to support lifesaving community-based efforts to prevent fatal drug overdoses and to establish a coordinated federal plan to combat the public health epidemic of fatal drug overdoses.
From 1990 to 2008, drug overdose death rates increased three-fold and recent analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reveals that drug overdose deaths now outnumber automobile deaths as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Key components of overdose prevention programs include training people at-risk of an overdose, and their likely first responders, how to prevent overdose, recognize the signs of a potentially fatal overdose, seek emergency medical help, conduct rescue breathing, and administer naloxone, a medication that reverses an overdose due to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin.
As Representative Bono Mack wrote on July 20, 2012 in recommendations for the 2013 National Drug Control Policy, “This campaign should also enable best practices for overdose education, awareness, and prevention efforts by providing resources to support the provision of trainings, technical assistance, and toolkits for community programs and health professionals who wish to distribute naloxone.“
Opioids (including prescription painkillers and heroin) are major causes of drug overdose deaths. Naloxone is the standard of care for treatment of potentially fatal respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose. Naloxone is routinely used in hospitals and by paramedics in the field to revive individuals who are suspected to be overdosing on opioids. Since 1996, community-based programs have been operating take-home naloxone programs that train individuals how to respond to overdoses and use naloxone. In February 2012, the CDC released the report Community-Based Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Providing Naloxone, showing community-based programs reported 10,171 drug overdose reversals using naloxone, after having trained and provided naloxone to 53,032 people. The report shows that by 2010, 188 local take-home naloxone programs had been established to provide naloxone to drug users, their families and friends and reported 10,171 drug overdose reversals using naloxone, after having trained and provided naloxone to 53,032 people.
“Thousands of fatal overdoses occur every year – but we can reduce overdose deaths by giving members of the community the right information, training, and tools,” said Eliza Wheeler, report author and program manager at the Harm Reduction Coalition, which runs model overdose prevention programs in New York City and San Francisco. “On a national level, it is time that take-home naloxone programs are recognized a highly effective way to prevent overdose deaths. Such initiatives should be adequately funded and steps must be taken to ensure that naloxone is affordable and accessible.”
A residential drug treatment program in New York, Samaritan Village received overdose prevention training and naloxone from Skills & Knowledge on Overdose Prevention (SKOOP), Harm Reduction Coalition’s east coast overdose prevention initiative. The training that staff and clients received was put to the test recently when a client overdosed, “She went into overdose, was discovered blue and unresponsive by another client who had the presence of mind to get his Narcan kit and administered the naloxone to the woman. The woman was revived, hospital paramedics arrived, and she was rushed to the hospital,” reported Roy Kearse, Vice President for Residential Treatment. “The swift action of the client, and the forethought of Samaritan Village, Inc. to have this pilot program no doubt saved the life of this woman.”
The Suffolk County Police Department also recently joined the SKOOP program and reported on Wednesday that an officer in Mastic Beach, NY saved the life of a man overdosing on heroin with intranasal naloxone.