Bill to Expand Life-Saving Overdose Prevention Act Now Law; Measure Extends Immunity Provisions of Opioid Antidote Law

narcanA bill to help save more lives by granting immunity to emergency responders and other critical frontline professionals who administer overdose antidotes has been signed into law. The bill was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway Jr., Pamela Lampitt, Nancy Pinkin, Daniel Benson, Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly.

“When seconds count, a well-meaning individual should not have to think twice about helping someone in need due to a fear that it ultimately may result in being held culpable for wrongdoing,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This law is about making sure that more men and women who are willing and able to assist an individual during an emergency can do so without hesitation.”

Specifically, the law (A-3720) extends the immunity provisions of the Overdose Prevention Act to certain professionals and professional entities that administer or dispense opioid antidotes, including sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians and other paid or volunteer emergency responders, safeguarding them from liability if they in good faith administer an antidote like naloxone, known also by its brand name Narcan, in the event of an emergency. Such antidotes counteract the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system opioids cause and can prevent death during an overdose.

“Authorizing more of our residents to provide medical assistance free of fear that legal repercussions will follow will go a long way toward saving lives,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “This measure reflects our state’s collective commitment to helping those who struggle with substance abuse get back on the right path.”

Enacted in May 2013, the Overdose Prevention Act provides health care practitioners who prescribe or dispense naloxone or other opioid antidotes with immunity from civil and criminal liability and professional discipline. The law provides a defense for certain individuals who administer an antidote in order to save the life of someone they believe in good faith is experiencing an opioid overdose.

The new law would authorize health care practitioners, such as physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists and certain other practitioners – pursuant to a standing order – to provide opioid antidotes to professionals they deem capable of administering or dispensing the antidote or to professional entities whose employees they deem capable. Any parties authorized to dispense opioid antidotes would also be required provide patients with overdose prevention information.

“Naxolone is inexpensive and easy to administer, and already, it has played a critical role in saving lives in New Jersey,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This law will ensure that individuals who are in a position to do the right thing can follow their instincts without of fear of liability.”

“As we work urgently to strengthen overdose prevention, having medication ready to reverse overdoses when they do occur is both pragmatic and necessary during this crisis,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “By removing liability, this law simply expands the life-saving efforts of our initial legislation.”

“This law reflects our state’s fundamental belief in second chances,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Any person who is equipped to save the life of another – someone’s daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father – should be able to give him or her that second chance without thinking twice about it.”

“Making a good-faith effort to save somebody’s life when time is of the essence should never be misconstrued as wrongdoing,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This law will protect the good Samaritans who do not hesitate to take action in emergency situations.”

The measure passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the Senate.


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