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House Bill Aims to Reduce Deaths from Drug Overdoses

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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

House Bill Aims to Reduce Deaths from Drug Overdoses

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Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the House would authorize millions of dollars in overdose prevention programming and research in an effort to curb the growing trend of opioid overdose deaths. The Stop Overdose Stat Act of 2015, introduced by Representative Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) with 26 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 STOP Overdose Stat Act would authorize $20 million per year for four years to the Secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 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, as well as similarly effective medication
  • 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 overdoses 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.

In addition, 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.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 people die from a drug overdose each day in the United States, and the majority of drug overdose deaths are caused by prescription opioids and heroin. In 2012, the CDC found that opioid overdose prevention programs providing naloxone had saved over 10,000 lives since 1996. The 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.

This legislation is similar to the Overdose Prevention Act (S. 2755), which was introduced in July 2014 by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) with four cosponsors.

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