Illinois Senate Committee Approves Bill Improving Access to Heroin Overdose-Prevention Drug

Heroin overdose fatalities in McHenry County, Illinois, increased from six in 2007 to 17 in 2008, and McHenry State Senator Pamela Althoff doesn’t want to see that tragic number keep rising.

Earlier this year Althoff sponsored a bill that would allow more trained people to use a lifesaving heroin overdose medication in emergency situations. Althoff's bill was approved by unanimous vote in the Illinois House of Representatives, and passed the Illinois Senate by a vote of 44 to 13.

According to a May 20 article by Amber Krosel of the Northwest Herald, Althoff's bill " create a statewide drug-overdose prevention program, increase the reporting on overdose trends, and expand access to Narcan."

Under the terms of the proposed law, more people would get training in the use of Narcan (naloxone), a drug that reverses the effects of opiates and which, when administered in time, can save a person who is dying from a heroin overdose.

Currently, anyone who is not licensed to administer the medication could face medical malpractice or even criminal charges for giving someone a dose of Narcan. Under the new law, trained but unlicensed people would be free from any sanction for using Narcan in emergency situations, regardless of the outcome of that use.

The bill is supported by the Illinois Society of Addiction Medicine, the Illinois State Medical Society, The Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, and other groups. No organization has voiced opposition to the proposed law.

The proposed bill would also increase reporting on overdose trends and implement a drug overdose prevention program.

If signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, the new rules regarding Narcan use could take effect Jan. 1, 2010.

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