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Home / News / Politics / State senator introduces bill to combat opioid overdose epidemic

State senator introduces bill to combat opioid overdose epidemic

opiate, overdose, opioid
by Staff
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A state senator from Riverside has introduced legislation that intends to help reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths by providing overdose-prevention drugs for free statewide, Sen. Richard D. Roth announced Wednesday.

Roth, a Democrat, wants the state to provide “all FDA-approved formulations and dosage strengths of naloxone, like Narcan” to a wide range of public agencies and community organizations, according to the senator’s announcement. 

“California’s opioid overdose epidemic demands a comprehensive, every-tool-in-the-toolbelt approach,” Roth said in a statement. “To that end, I have authored Senate Bill 641 to ensure that California’s Naloxone Distribution Project makes all FDA-approved opioid reversal tools available to law enforcement, first responders, community organizations, schools, and local health agencies. 

“This commonsense measure recognizes that one-size-fits-all solutions are not sufficient in our large, diverse state, and I am proud to have the support of the heroes on the front lines of responding to the overdose crisis. I have no doubt that this bill will save countless lives,” Roth said.

The Naloxone Distribution Project, or NDP, is administered by the California Department of Health Care Services. 

California’s overdose crisis is getting worse, with a significant increase in deaths caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. According to the DHCS study “The Overdose Crisis in California: 2017-2021,” there were 11,361 opioid overdose deaths in the state during this period, with synthetic drugs causing 73% of opioid-related deaths in 2020. The study also noted that certain populations, including Black and Latinx communities, experienced higher rates of opioid overdose deaths compared with the general population. 

“These statistics highlight the urgent need for comprehensive and effective measures to combat the opioid epidemic in California, such as SB 641,” according to Roth’s announcement. Expanded access to naloxone via the proposed legislation “has the potential to save countless lives and address the devastating impact of opioid addiction” on communities throughout California.

“The California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives … applauds Senator Roth’s leadership in introducing SB 641, which will expand access to life-saving naloxone products and help combat California’s devastating opioid epidemic,” Robb Layne, executive director of CAADPE, said in a statement. “This legislation will provide critical support to the front-line workers who are fighting every day to save lives and help those struggling with addiction. We are proud to sponsor this vital bill and urge the legislature to take action to protect the health and well-being of all Californians.”

SB 641 ensures that eligible NDP applicants have access to all FDA-approved formulations and dosage strengths of naloxone, which would provide a diverse field of naloxone seekers wider options, according to Roth’s announcement. A goal of the legislation is to recognize that a “one-size-fits-all approach” is ineffective for a diverse state such as California.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco spoke in support of the bill.

“I applaud Senator Roth’s initiative to equip our state’s law enforcement agencies additional overdose reversal tools,” Bianco said in a statement. “Riverside County has had over 1,000 deaths from opioid overdoses within the last two years, a majority stemming from fentanyl. 

“Late last year, after several failed attempts to get the state’s NDP to supply our deputies with additional life-saving tools, I authorized our deputies to administer an FDA approved 8mg Naloxone product,” Bianco continued. “To date, our deputies have used this product over 45 times and, in all cases, the recipient survived. It is time for the state’s NDP to recognize that as synthetic opioids evolve and become more potent, so too must our state’s response. I am proud to sponsor SB641, which will equip our first responders with additional tools to curb this deadly trend.”

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