To save lives in cases of a heroin overdose, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon sponsor legislation that allows more first responders and other healthcare professionals to administer drug overdose antidotes and protects them from liability. The bill was signed into law today by Gov. Christie.

“Heroin overdoses can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to turn deadly. Every second counts when reacting to an overdose situation,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, who is a registered nurse. “Allowing more first responders and other professionals to administer this critical first aid without fear of legal repercussions will help prevent more unnecessary tragedies.”

Under the current “Overdose Prevention Act,” healthcare practitioners and pharmacists are protected from liability when prescribing, dispensing, or administering an opioid overdose antidote. This bill, S-2378/A-3720, expands the list of people authorized to administer an opioid antidote and provides them immunity from liability, including sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders. In addition to heroin, opioids include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine.

“Our first responders will now have the necessary tools to save lives when time is of the essence,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “They no longer will need to worry about liability when someone’s life is on the line. This law allows them to treat those in need without second guessing themselves and risking catastrophe.”

The measure also authorizes needle exchange programs to obtain a standing order permitting their employees to carry/dispense opioid antidotes, and provide overdose prevention information to clients.

A recent national trend of rising heroin overdose deaths across demographic groups has been reflected in New Jersey. Last year, more than 500 residents died from heroin overdoses – nearly double the number reported in 2010.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws making it easier for responders to give life saving antidotes to reverse overdoses.