TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by former Senator Colin Bell providing immunity to emergency personnel for the administration of multiple doses of an opioid antidote to overdose victims is now law. The bill was also sponsored by the late Senator Jim Whelan.
“Fentanyl is so potent, it may require several doses of naloxone to bring someone out of a fentanyl overdose,” said Bell. “First responders who encounter overdose victims should only need to worry about saving lives and not about potential liability. I was proud to sponsor this law in memory of Senator Whelan’s tireless struggle for the most vulnerable and for those he has represented. Senator Whelan wanted to provide first responders with the necessary resources to save lives, and that is what this law does.”
The law, S-3083, clarifies that authorized persons which includes, but is not limited to, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and fire fighters, may administer multiple doses of any FDA-approved opioid antidote to an overdose victim, regardless of dosage amount or administration method, with immunity under “Overdose Prevention Act” (OPA).
The law also requires the Commissioner of Health to provide, within 7 days of the effective date of the law, written notice of the provisions of the law to all emergency response agencies affected by it. The law further specifies that prior consultation with, or approval by, a third-party physician or other medical personnel is not required as a condition of administering more than one dose of an opioid antidote to the same overdose victim.
The Task Force on Drug Abuse Control, established in January 2017, recommended on September 17, 2017 to increase the amount of Narcan (or Naloxone) that Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) can carry and dispense to 4 mg an increase from the current allowed 2 mg dosage. According to the taskforce’s report, in 2016, New Jersey experienced 2,100, non-alcohol, drug-related deaths almost double the amount of 1,600 deaths experienced in 2015.
In 2015, deaths attributed to fentanyl increased to over 400 and in 2016 there were more than 800 deaths. Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid that is rapidly absorbed by the body.
The law takes effect immediately.