The California Senate voted unanimously last week to approve a bill by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, to put a life-saving antidote into the hands of first responders to prevent drug overdose deaths.
Senate Bill 1438 will equip firefighters, police officers and other first responders with naloxone, an antidote that can reverse the effects of prescription painkillers and heroin and abruptly stop an overdose episode. The bill would require that naloxone training be provided to first responders who provide basic life support, such as professional firefighters. It would also provide voluntary training for police and other public safety personnel.
“Prescription painkiller abuse afflicts people of all ages and backgrounds,” Senator Pavley said. “Making naloxone available to law enforcement can prevent needless deaths and give victims a second chance to seek treatment and break their addiction.”
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, killing about 38,000 people per year (4,200 in California). In March, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called opioid overdose deaths an “urgent public health crisis” and urged law enforcement agencies to train and equip personnel with naloxone. At least 17 states have adopted measures to increase access to naloxone and six others have either passed or have pending legislation that explicitly authorizes first responders to carry and administer naloxone.
SB 1438 is sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and supported by the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
“Law enforcement’s number one priority is to be able to save lives, and this is going to save lives the first week we put it into place,” said Captain James Bovet of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
“As a trained EMT, an off-duty firefighter can administer naloxone, but in many California counties, they could be disciplined if they administered it while on duty because it’s not part of their ‘scope of practice,’” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “This makes no sense. SB 1438 closes this loophole, ensuring that patients can get the critical treatment they need.”
The bill has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for signature.
Fran Pavley represents about half of the Santa Clarita Valley in the state Senate.