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During Worst Opioid Epidemic in Nation’s History, the Antidote is Unattainable for Many

The Background:  Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and opioid overdose now kills more Virginians than car accidents.  Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose in as little as 30 seconds when given in time and is very safe to use. It cannot be overdosed on, is safe for pregnant women and children, and has no contraindications with other medications.  People revived with naloxone are more likely to seek addiction treatment, and despite some concerns, evidence suggests naloxone does not act as a safety net that encourages people to use drugs – in fact, it puts opioid users into painful and acute withdrawal, something they are very careful to avoid.  VA law already provides immunity from liability for anyone prescribing, dispensing, or administering naloxone.  Virginia “Revive!” overdose reversal instructors are certified by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and conduct emergency response trainings throughout Virginia communities. The Problem:  Despite the safety of naloxone and the urgency of the overdose epidemic, current legislation in Virginia prevents Revive instructors from providing naloxone directly to their trainees at the time of instruction. Instead, they must refer them to a pharmacy, and many people never go.  Pharmacies may now sell naloxone without a prescription, but this has not improved access for persons without sufficient income, transportation, and insurance – or for those who are afraid to ask for a stigmatized medication at a public pharmacy counter. » Revive instructors at community services boards, nonprofits, and shelters intersect with these populations every day and desire to incorporate naloxone into their regular services. Some have private funding, and would qualify for direct-from-manufacturer public interest pricing at a much lower cost than retail, but are unable to dispense under current legislation. The Proposed Solution:  Pass SB848, the Naloxone Access Bill, which would allow Revive trainers to give out this safe and vital medication to the people they serve. This is currently being done with success in 26 other states. Conclusion: Despite recent efforts, the opioid death toll is still rising and access to Naloxone in Virginia is not adequate to address an epidemic of this magnitude. Pharmacists alone cannot fill in the gaps that families and individuals are slipping through. Revive instructors are state certified, passionate about stopping overdose deaths, and mobile in their communities. They are a valuable resource in this fight, but under current legislation are unable to perform their roles properly. Virginia must act quickly to allow the Revive program to operate more efficiently and save more lives.

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