Strong Support For Narcan Bill At Public Hearing [Courant]

February 17, 2016

Hartford Courant

HARTFORD – A proposal requiring first responders in all cities and towns to carry the overdose-reversing drug naloxone received broad bipartisan support at a legislative public hearing Tuesday.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy introduced legislation that would require all municipalities to have the drug available as of Jan. 1. Naloxone, often branded as Narcan, can be administered as a nasal spray or an injection and works within minutes to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Rudy Marconi, first selectman of Ridgefield and a board member of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said municipal leaders support the legislation, even if it comes with increased costs. He urged lawmakers to act quickly.

“I hope to God we don’t decide to form yet another committee, to do yet another study … we need action, there are people dying,” Marconi said. “This is a little bit more serious than a toll issue for example … we have people dying, this is a public health issue. They have the ability to do it … do it, take action.”

Malloy’s bill comes as opioid overdose deaths continue to rise throughout the country and in Connecticut. Heroin was present in 415 overdose deaths in the state in 2015, more than double the number from three years earlier.

State police have saved more than 60 lives since they started carrying naloxone a year and a half ago, according to state officials. Many municipalities – including Hartford – already outfit first responders with the drug.

Len Fasano, the top Republican in the Senate, pointed to an episode of three suspected heroin overdoses in a 36-hour period in June in his hometown of North Haven as evidence that the heroin epidemic crosses socioeconomic and municipal boundaries.

“Proposals such as the one before us today certainly move our state in the right direction to treating the effects of overdoses and saving lives,” he said.

Other officials pointed out that saving an overdose victim with naloxone is the first step toward getting that person treatment.

“A reversal of an overdose with Narcan represents an opportunity for that individual to engage in treatment and start on the road to recovery,” said Nancy Navarretta, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Rep. Roberta Willis, a Democrat from Salisbury who co-sponsored the bill and has introduced her own legislation on the issue, said increased access to naloxone is a good start, but she hopes more will be done regarding the opioid crisis, even during a short session with a lot of attention being paid to the state budget.

“I think there’ll be the political will to do something more comprehensive,” Willis said.