Bill protects Good Samaritans

HARTFORD — House members cast what many called lifesaving votes Thursday to counteract a troubling rise in drug-related deaths in Connecticut.

The House voted 146-0 to approve legislation to generally shield people from criminal prosecution and civil liability for administering Narcan and other drugs to someone they reasonably believe is overdosing on heroin or other opioids.

For the immunity to apply, the person must act with reasonable care.

Under current law, licensed health care practitioners are able to prescribe and administer so-called opiod antagonists without being civilly or criminally liable. They may also prescribe the drugs to family members and others to assist people who are overdosing.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) said the legislation protects people who are overdosing because it requires that a person administering Narcan or other similar drugs act with reasonable care.

“There is still liability there,” she said.

State Rep. Theresa Conroy (D-105) and other lawmakers said the legislation will help save lives at a time when heroin use and heroin-related deaths are on the rise in the state.

They said this is happening in large part because heroin is so inexpensive.

“We are in the midst of a public health crisis,” said Conroy, who is an advanced practice registered nurse, in a press release. “Heroin is devastating families in our state. Narcan will save lives and we want to protect people who act to save their loved ones.”

There were 257 drug-related deaths last year connected to heroin use, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. That represented 52 percent of the 490 overdose deaths

Of the 257 heroin-related deaths, 109 were attributed to heroin use alone, and the other 148 remainder involved a combination of heroin and other drugs.

“The depth of this problem is staggering, here in Connecticut and throughout the country,” state Rep. David Labriola (R-131) said in a press release. “We are taking steps to reduce these tragic deaths, so that for people struggling with opioids, their lives may be saved.”

The House vote sends the legislation to the Senate for possible final action in the legislature.

The departments of Public Health and Mental Health and Addiction Services supported the legislation. It also had the support of the Connecticut State Medical Society and several advocacy organizations.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.

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