State Rep. Tom O'Dea supports expanded use of anti-overdose drug

State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125) has joined with Rep. Gerald Fox III (D-146) in championing Raised House Bill No. 5487, which would provide legal immunity to anyone who administers a drug called an “opioid antagonist” to a person experiencing an overdose.

When administered quickly and correctly, the drug naloxone rapidly restores a victim’s breathing and reverses the effects of an overdose of heroin or other opioids, such as prescription painkillers.

Under current statute, only licensed health care professionals can administer the overdose countermeasure without fear of facing civil or criminal prosecution. Mr. O’Dea, who introduced the measure through the state House’s Judiciary Committee, believes legislation is necessary to protect from lawsuits or prosecution any and all first responders who administer naloxone.

According to the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, deaths from heroin abuse alone rose by nearly 50% to 257 in 2013, from 174 such deaths in 2012.

“A lot of these cases of heroin abuse and deaths start with abuse of painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin — when people run out of ways to get the prescription meds, too often they turn to heroin,” Mr. O’Dea said during a public hearing on the bill last week. “The rising number of deaths from these drugs in Connecticut is extremely alarming, and allowing non-physicians to carry and administer naloxone is an easy way to avoid unnecessary tragedies like the ones we’ve been seeing all too often.”

Seventeen states and Washington D.C. have increased access to naloxone by amending their states’ laws.

Mr. O’Dea, who represents Wilton and New Canaan, expects the bill to be passed in the coming weeks with wide bipartisan support.