North Carolina is in the midst of an epidemic. Drug overdoses, largely from prescription pain relievers, claimed 1,141 lives last year – 28 from Durham County, 13 from Orange and 53 from Wake. If left unchecked, by 2017 overdose will surpass auto fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death in our state. Nationally, this has already happened.
I co-sponsored the SB20: 911 Good Samaritan/Naloxone Access bill, which became law on April 9. The law makes it easier for people experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose to seek help by granting limited immunity from prosecution for very small amounts of drugs, paraphernalia and underage drinking.
The new law improves public access to naloxone, or Narcan, which reverses drug overdose from opiates. SB20 puts naloxone into the hands of people at risk for overdose by encouraging medical providers to prescribe it to patients on pain medications and their loved ones without fear of civil liabilities. Bystanders who administer naloxone during an emergency are protected as well.
Community overdose prevention programs also can more freely distribute naloxone under the standing orders of a medical provider. Since Aug. 1, the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition, a Durham-based nonprofit, has distributed naloxone to 122 at-risk individuals and reports 22 lives saved so far. That gives North Carolina a reason to hope.
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr.
The writer, a Democrat, represents N.C. District 20.