WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced bipartisan legislation last week to help prevent opioid overdose deaths by encouraging physicians to co-prescribe the life-saving drug naloxone alongside opioid prescriptions and by making naloxone more widely available in federal health settings. The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act will enable more health professionals to get naloxone, a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses, into the homes of people who are at-risk of overdose.
“Families and communities across West Virginia have been affected by the drug abuse epidemic, with our state sadly leading the nation in drug-related overdose deaths,” said Sen. Capito. “We must fight this terrible epidemic from all fronts, including preventing deaths from opioid overdoses. This bill will help save lives, better equip our health care professionals with tools to treat overdoses and give West Virginians suffering from addiction a second chance.”
“In every corner of Virginia, the drug abuse epidemic is hurting families, challenging local law enforcement and leaving businesses without a capable workforce,” said Sen. Kaine. “A particularly heartbreaking aspect of this crisis is that many of the deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses could have been prevented. My bill would increase access to medication that can save someone’s life during an overdose and establish clear prescribing guidelines that will help get vital information about opioids to doctors and patients.”
West Virginia has the highest number of drug overdose deaths in the nation. Nationwide, heroin and prescription opioids account for approximately 25,000 American deaths per year. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, reversed more than 26,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2014.
Since joining the Senate, Sen. Capito has worked to bring more attention and resources to the table to tackle West Virginia’s drug epidemic, including introducing legislation to combat increased heroin and methamphetamine trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico Border. In March, she supported legislation to protect first responders, health professionals and family members who are educated in administering an opioid overdose prevention drug in an emergency situation of overdose. In June, Senator Capito and others introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to veterans.
The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish physician education and co-prescribing guidelines for federal health settings, including VA hospitals, DoD hospitals, Indian health service facilities and Federally-Qualified Health Centers. Additionally, the bill would authorize a program to grant state Departments of Health funding that would help them establish co-prescribing guidelines, purchase naloxone, and fund training for health professionals and patients.