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Senator Baldwin Introduces Legislation to Increase Access to Opioid Overdose Reversal Drugs and Save Lives

Baldwin legislation comes after U.S. has 100,000 drug overdose deaths during 12-month period

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Naloxone Education and Access Act to increase states’ and Tribal communities’ access to life-saving opioid overdoses reversal drugs like naloxone, the medication that can reverse overdoses from heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids. The legislation provides grants to states and Tribal entities to promote education, dispensing and distribution of opioid overdose reversal drugs and devices.

“The opioid epidemic and substance use disorder crisis continues to touch every community across the country. Along with focusing on prevention and treatment for substance use disorder, combating drug trafficking, and providing support for individuals and families impacted by this epidemic, we also must provide the life-saving drugs that reverse overdoses and poisoning,”
said Senator Baldwin. “This legislation is an important step forward to give communities the tools and resources they need to save lives.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States during a 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the same period the year before. Public health experts recommend increasing access to naloxone as a way to prevent deaths due to overdose.

The Naloxone Education and Access Act would reauthorize a grant program first enacted as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and provide $10 million annually to:

  • Implement strategies for pharmacists to dispense an overdose reversal drug or device;
  • Encourage pharmacies to dispense opioid overdose reversal medication;
  • Encourage health care providers to co-prescribe overdose reversal drugs or devices;
  • Support innovative community-based distribution programs of overdose reversal drugs and devices;
  • Develop or provide training materials that persons authorized to prescribe or dispense an overdose reversal drug or device may use to educate the public concerning—
    • When and how to safely administer such drug or device; and
    • Steps to be taken after administering such drug or device; and
  • Educate the public concerning the availability of overdose reversal drugs or devices

"We are grateful to Senator Baldwin for introducing the Naloxone Education and Access Act.  This proposed legislation will save lives,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “Senator Baldwin recognizes, as we do, that access and education go hand-in-hand, so along with providing greater access to naloxone, this act will make sure people know how to use it to act quickly and accurately when someone is overdosing on opioids. Reducing harm from opioid use is a necessary step toward our greater goal of saving lives and helping people with substance use disorder get on the path to treatment and recovery."

“The Ho-Chunk Nation is evidence that health professionals providing Naloxone and training saves lives. Naloxone can help keep someone alive while treatment facilities are unavailable because they already exceed capacity. Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate but access to resources will determine whether or not someone will live long enough to recover. The Ho Chunk Nation appreciates Sen. Baldwin introducing this key legislation,” said Ho Chunk Nation Vice President Karena Thundercloud.

“Ending opioid deaths is an issue that deserves bipartisan support. The opioid epidemic reaches communities in all parts of the state – it crosses all socio-economic, demographic and age ranges. Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve seen an increased demand for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs and devices here in Milwaukee County. Thank you to Senator Baldwin for introducing this important piece of legislation which will help communities like ours access these essential tools and save lives,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

“Equitable and cost-effective strategies to increase access to all forms of naloxone is the next step in addressing the opioid overdose and addiction epidemics,” said Jesse Heffernan, RCP, of Appleton, Wisconsin, a recovery coach and person in recovery. “Naloxone should be in every household, business and campuses across the country in the same way we have smoke detectors, AEDs, and first AID Kits. When families and individuals are equipped with it, people are given opportunities to move into recovery and treatment. Overdose is preventable and reversible. Thank you to Senator Baldwin and her colleagues for her important leadership in increasing access to naloxone.”

The Naloxone Education and Access Act is supported by Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Big Cities Health Coalition, Ho-Chunk Nation, Milwaukee County, Helios Recovery, Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, National Alliance on Mental Illness, NASTAD, and National Community Pharmacists Association.

Earlier this year, Senator Baldwin
led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in sending letters to seven major manufacturers of naloxone urging them to apply for over the counter (OTC) status for their products. Despite the effectiveness of naloxone to reverse active opioid overdoses and the Food and Drug Administration’s public support for making the product available over the counter, the medication is not currently available over the counter because drug manufacturers have resisted applying. This step is expected to lower the cost of the medication and increase access both at the pharmacy counter and for community organizations working to distribute this life-saving tool.

Full text of the legislation is available