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Senate OKs increased access to overdose antidote

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday that would put a drug overdose-reversing medication in the hands of addicts.

Sponsored by Senate President Bill Cole, the legislation (SB335) would authorize doctors to prescribe the medicine — called naloxone — to drug users, as well as their friends and family members, who also could legally administer the medication for the first time.

“Having this available from someone as close as possible is very crucial,” said Sen. Ron Stolling, D-Boone. “I think this is the only way it’s going to work.”

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. Naloxone – also known by the brand name Narcan – immediately reverses the effects of heroin and prescription pain-pill overdoses.

Now, only paramedics, doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals in West Virginia can administer naloxone to people who overdose on prescription drugs and heroin. Cole’s bill, as initially written, expanded that list to police and firefighters. The Senate health committee added friends and family members.

“I haven’t had anyone come to me and say, ‘Let’s not make this available to anyone who can use it,’” Stollings said. “This piece of legislation will go a long way in cutting down our prescription drug and heroin overdoses…

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