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Lawmaker seeks to expand access to overdose reversal meds in New York

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  • Staff Report 

In an effort to combat the ongoing opioid crisis, New York State Assemblyman Phil Steck will propose legislation to broaden access to lifesaving overdose reversal drugs.

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The current law in New York provides free Narcan, a naloxone brand, to first responders and law enforcement, but Steck’s initiative seeks to extend this to include additional FDA-approved antidotes. The proposal is driven by a belief that increasing the number of companies providing such drugs could enhance their availability and potentially save more lives.

The legislative move is timely as Schenectady, among other New York counties, has experienced a surge in overdose fatalities, with eight deaths reported in the first week of July and five in August. While the fatal overdose rate has fluctuated, local health officials attribute spikes to variations in drug potency, particularly batches with high levels of fentanyl. In 2022, Schenectady County recorded 49 overdose deaths, with neighboring counties also facing significant losses.

Health experts, such as Haleigh Snare of New Choices Recovery Center, emphasize the importance of increasing the toolkit for overdose prevention. While Narcan is favored due to its milder withdrawal effects, having a range of naloxone options could offer a substantial benefit to communities grappling with addiction issues. The proposed legislation aims to provide those on the front lines with more resources to effectively respond to overdoses, despite the known intense withdrawal experience naloxone can induce in opioid users. The bill is set for discussion in the 2024 legislative session.