Governor Signs Life-Saving Bill To Prevent Overdose Deaths in Hawai’i
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Heather Lusk, Director, CHOW Project
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Carl Bergquist, Director, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii
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HONOLULU, HI –June 20, 2016
The CHOW Project and the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i (DPFHI) applaud Governor David Ige for enacting SB 2392 (Act 68) which was signed into law on June 16, 2016. The law takes steps to reduce deaths from opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin, by increasing access to, and encouraging the use of, overdose reversal medications such as naloxone. As overdose deaths are increasing in Hawai’i, this landmark law will put these medications in the hands of friends and family best positioned to save the lives of their loved ones.
Act 68 creates immunity for health care professionals and pharmacists who prescribe, dispense, distribute, or administer overdose reversal medications such as naloxone. The Act also authorizes police, firefighters, lifeguards, all emergency medical technicians, family and friends to administer this medication to anyone experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose. Act 68 also allows harm reduction organizations like the CHOW Project to store and distribute them within the communities they serve.
Naloxone Saves Lives
Naloxone is a non-narcotic opioid antagonist used to blocks opioids. It has no potential for misuse, and side effects are rare. When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of the drug(s) and restores breathing within 3 minutes. Over 10,000 overdose reversals have been achieved nationwide by using naloxone.
“For every 164 naloxone kits distributed, one life is saved. Hawaii now joins the majority of states in increasing access to this life-saving drug with the passage of this important legislation” stated Heather Lusk, Director of the CHOW Project. “Half of our participants have witnessed or experienced an overdose in the past couple of years and now we can prevent overdose deaths with education and access to naloxone”.
Preventing Overdoses in Hawai’i
In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic, Hawai’i is now the 38th jurisdiction to pass a law that increases access to naloxone-type medication. Not only has drug overdose been the leading cause of injury death for the past two decades for the entire United States, it was also the leading cause of fatal injuries in Hawai’i from 2010-2014—surpassing falls, motor vehicle, drowning and other injury-related deaths. In 2014, there were 155 deaths from drug poisonings/overdoses in Hawai’i, with a total of 1,465 over the past decade. The CHOW Project and DPFHI truly welcome the collaboration with the Hawai’i Department of Health’s Harm Reduction Services Branch in addressing this burden.
“With rare bipartisan support, President Obama recently allocated over one billion dollars in his budget to increase federal funding for overdose prevention. In other words, the timing of this legislation could not be better,” added Carl Bergquist, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i. “Not only does it put necessary legal protections in place, but Hawai’i is more likely than ever to see the money we need to save the lives of those at risk and increase their treatment options.”