WASHINGTON, DC (LOOTPRESS) – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced legislation to ensure that first responders and other essential community members have access to training on how to use life-saving overdose reversal drugs, like naloxone. The legislation, the Safe Response Act, invests in a critical grant program that allows states, local government entities, and Tribes to train and provide resources to first responders to respond to overdoses.
“When someone is experiencing a drug overdose or poisoning, every second makes a difference. I’m proud to have worked to expand access to lifesaving drugs like naloxone, but we must do more to ensure overdose reversal drugs can be effectively used in an emergency,” said Senator Baldwin. “Our fire fighters, police officers, and paramedics are often the first responders to an overdose, and it’s our job to make sure they have the training they need to save lives.”
“With deaths from fentanyl on the rise in West Virginia and across the nation, it is essential we provide resources to ensure our first responders have the training necessary to save lives and keep themselves safe. I’m proud to join with a bipartisan group of colleagues to put forward a solution which would reauthorize this important program,” said Senator Capito.
“Fire fighters, paramedics, police officers, and other first responders are at the frontlines of the opioid epidemic, and it’s important that they know how to administer lifesaving medication such as naloxone as soon as possible when someone is experiencing an overdose from fentanyl or other deadly drugs,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill will give more Granite State first responders the training needed to administer overdose reversal medication, and I will continue working to get them the resources that they need to save more lives.”
First responders are often the first on the scene of an overdose and help to provide lifesaving medications, such as naloxone, to reverse an overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, there were 106,699 drug overdose deaths in the United States, an increase of 14 percent from the year before. Of those, over 80,000 overdose deaths were due to opioids, including fentanyl.
The Safe Response Act would reauthorize a grant program included as part of the bipartisan SUPPORT Act, which was signed into law in 2018. Specifically, the bill would provide $57 million per year for fiscal years 2024 through 2028 for grants to states, local government entities, and Tribes. Grants may be used to:
- Ensure that first responders and members of key community sectors such as SUD treatment providers and emergency medical service agencies, have the knowledge and training to utilize overdose reversal devices or administer overdose reversal medications, such as naloxone;
- Provide technical assistance and training about how first responders and other members of key community sectors can better protect themselves in the event of exposure to such drugs;
- Establish processes, protocols, and mechanisms for referral to appropriate treatment, which may include an outreach coordinator or team to connect individuals receiving opioid overdose reversal drugs to follow-up services;
- Educate first responders and members of key community sectors about the need to follow standard safe operating procedures in instances of exposure to fentanyl, carfentanil, and other dangerous licit and illicit drugs.
Senator Baldwin has worked to increase access to the opioid reversal drug naloxone and increase resources for local and Tribal communities to better combat the opioid and substance use disorder epidemic. Last year, she fought to ensure that both programs received critical funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bill. As Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Senator Baldwin also successfully included increased funding for opioid treatment and prevention programs in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2024 government funding legislation.
The bill has been endorsed by the National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Big Cities Health Coalition.