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Florida Legislature passes expanded access to overdose treatment drug

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Florida lawmakers approved a medication that could save lives during a drug overdose, with a bill now awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature.

On Tuesday, the Legislature passed SB 758/HB 751, known as the Emergency Treatment for Opioid Overdose Act, which increases availability of Naloxone, a drug that immediately reverses effects of opioids — prescription painkillers, heroin and the like — in the event of an overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 44,000 people lost their lives to drug overdose in 2013. Naloxone is an FDA-approved non-addictive medication that experts say saved more than 10,000 lives in the U.S. over the past decade.

Florida now joins 29 states and the District of Columbia that implemented a law or developed a pilot program to allow the use of Naloxone.

Republicans state Sen. Greg Evers from Pensacola, state Rep. Julio Gonzalez from Venice and state Rep. Doc Renuart from Ponte Vedra Beach sponsored the Act. Gonzales and Renuart are both physicians.

Co-sponsors include state Reps. Frank Artiles, Colleen Burton, Fred Costello, Katie Edwards, Kristin Jacobs, Ray Pilon, Jake Rabrun, Patrick Rooney, Greg Steube, and Charles Van Zant.

“This legislation will ensure that the life-saving medication … is always in the hands of healthcare professionals and emergency personnel so we can begin curbing the overdose death rate in Florida and be a leader in these policy matters,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

The bill allows first responders to possess, store, and administer Naloxone. Persons acting under a “standing order” issued by a healthcare professional will be able to store the opioid antagonist.

Shatterproof: Stronger than Addiction is a national organization to protect children from addiction while ending the stigma. The group worked with lawmakers, advocacy organizations, Florida families, and victims of addiction on the Act, as well as other reforms to help end the disease of addiction and decrease drug overdoses in Florida.

“Shatterproof commends the Florida Legislature for their work to pass legislation that will ultimately save lives in Florida,” said Shatterproof founder Gary Mendell.

Florida faces a severe addiction epidemic, Mendell added, as the nation’s 11th-highest in drug-overdose mortality rate, a problem affecting almost every family and community. He applauded legislators who “have hearts big enough to allow for a second chance.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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