Bill aimed at reversing drug overdoses signed into law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Wheeling small business owner watched Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sign a bill into law Monday that he knows firsthand will save lives.

The governor signed Senate Bill 335 creating the Opioid Antagonists Act. It will allow medical professionals to prescribe the drug Naloxone to first responders and those at risk of experiencing an overdose along with their families and friends who could help them if they did overdose.

Wheeling resident Sean Hughes overdosed on heroin 10 years ago in New Jersey. He said Monday a friend rushed him to the hospital where they gave him Naloxone, which saved his life. He said he had no doubt that will be the case now in West Virginia.

“There’s a lot of people in active recovery that really need a law like this that will hopefully impact them to change their lives,” Hughes said.

State Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone), who is also a medical doctor, said Naloxone is a short-acting medicine only lasting 20 to 30 minutes.

“So once you deliver this medicine to someone they still have to get medical treatment,” Stollings said. “Nearly every life could be saved with this medicine if we could get it to them.”

West Virginia had more than 500 overdose deaths in 2013. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said it’s time to reduce that number.

“It’s a critical problem and to have a very sharp tool in our toolkit to address these overdose deaths is nothing but good,” Goodwin said.

The law has an educational component with it that calls for family members to be trained on when and how to administer the drug. The law also has a reporting requirement back to the legislature.

The bill becomes law May 27.

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