Lorain County might end up the focus of a pilot project that would authorize emergency responders to administer the nasal spray Narcan to revive persons who have suffered an overdose from heroin or other drugs if a state bill becomes law.
Prospects for the yearlong pilot grew stronger with Wednesday’s unanimous 33-0 vote by the Ohio Senate on Senate Bill 57, which was sponsored by state Sen. Gayle Manning, R–North Ridgeville.
“This should move it along quicker in the house,” Manning said Wednesday afternoon after the Senate vote. “It puts a bit more weight behind the bill.”
Manning, who introduced the bill in February, said she hopes to see the bill passed by the House of Representatives before the Legislature recesses at the end of June. If approved, it could reach Gov. John Kasich’s desk by the end of June and become law after the 90-day waiting period.
“Hopefully by September we’ll be ready to begin to implement this in Lorain County,” Manning said.
The measure has been pushed by Manning in light of a three-fold increase in drug overdose deaths in the county from 22 in 2011 to 60 in 2012.
Narcan, which is also known by its generic name of naloxone, has been shown to reverse the effects of opiates including heroin, on the nervous system. At present, the spray can only be administered in Ohio by a doctor, although LifeCare paramedics are authorized to carry it.
Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans, who has been a strong proponent of the measure, testified in favor of the bill.
Evans is one of a number of county officials who have worked with police departments and the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County to create a countywide Narcan task force.
“Getting this through is exactly what we need,” Evans said. “We have had an explosion of deaths in the county the last two years from drug overdoses, and we have to put a stop to this.”
The bill proposes an expansion to those able to administer the spray to first responders, including police and paramedics.
“We will keep check of how many people we can keep alive, how many we can save,” Evans said. “They’re using us as a pilot to see whether to go statewide.”
A second law may be needed to authorize statewide distribution of Narcan, Evans said.
All emergency responders taking part in the project will receive training on proper use of the drug from health professionals.
Manning said the countywide project could begin as early as Aug. 1. It would likely conclude by July 2014.
“To delay this bill one day could mean the difference between a young person living or dying,” Manning said during remarks on the Senate floor before the vote.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.