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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

New Legislation Supports Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment

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Legislation recently introduced in the Senate would authorize millions of dollars in overdose prevention programming and research in an effort to curb the growing trend of opioid overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 people die every day in the United States due to an opioid drug overdose. The Overdose Prevention Act (S. 2755), introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) with four cosponsors, would support prevention programs to reduce drug overdose deaths, create a task force to recommend a national public health campaign to Congress and authorize funding to research and test new treatment and prevention methods.

The Overdose Prevention Act would authorize $20 million per year for four years to the CDC to enter into cooperative agreements with eligible organizations engaging in overdose prevention activities. Such eligible organizations include: state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, community agencies, and private nonprofit organizations. The activities supported by these cooperative agreements are:

  • Purchasing and distributing naloxone, a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of overdose from heroin and opioid medications;
  • Educating prescribers and pharmacists about overdose prevention and naloxone;
  • Training first responders, law enforcement officials, and the general public on effective responses to individuals who have overdosed on drugs;
  • Implementing or enhancing programs that offer overdose prevention, recognition and treatment; and
  • Educating the public and providing outreach about overdose prevention and naloxone prescriptions.

Additionally, this legislation creates a task force to provide Congress with recommendations for improving and expanding prevention programming. This task force will be comprised of federal agency officials, medical associations, law enforcement officials, overdose prevention advocates and individuals directly impacted by drug overdose.

In 2012, the CDC found that opioid overdose prevention programs providing naloxone had saved over 10,000 lives since 1996. This bill would authorize $5 million per year for four years to fund an evaluation of existing overdose prevention programs and an examination of the circumstances and types of drugs associated with fatal overdose. It would also fund research and testing of new methods of treatment and prevention by the National Institutes of Health.

This legislation is similar to the Stop Overdose Stat Act (H.R. 4169), which was introduced in the House in March by Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) with 36 cosponsors.