February 20, 2019

Bill would require all first responders to carry Narcan

Photo/Flick/Jeff Anderson
Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Almost half the state Legislature has lined up behind a bill that would require all first responders in Massachusetts be equipped with an opioid antagonist like Narcan.

Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli's bill would require all local and state police, firefighters and first responders to receive training on administering opioid antagonists and to be equipped with a Department of Public Health-approved opioid antagonist while they are on duty.

Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, said in a statement that he was driven to file the bill after hearing a story of a young man who died of an overdose while waiting for Narcan to arrive at the scene. He said he researched the issue and discovered Narcan policies vary by community.

"DPH has outlined an approved training that is already being carried out, and the Massachusetts State Police and officers from major metropolitan areas across the state are already trained and equipped with Narcan. It's up to us to plug in the existing holes," Pignatelli said.

Fifteen out of 40 senators and 78 of 160 state representatives are signed on to the bill, for a total of 93 cosponsors.

Many first responders in Massachusetts already carry the overdose reversal drug Narcan. The bill "leaves room for advances" by referring to a DPH-approved opioid antagonist in case additional effective drugs are developed in the future, according to Pignatelli's office.

A total of 1,974 people died of confirmed or suspected opioid overdoses in 2018, according to the Department of Public Health, representing a 4 percent drop from the 2,056 deaths recorded in 2017. In the first three quarters of 2018, there were a total of 16,122 opioid-related emergency medical service incidents logged across the state, DPH data show.

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