Legislation to aid the estimated 94,000 New Jersey residents in need of substance abuse treatment was signed into law Friday.
The new laws focus on making medicines that help treat the effects of opioids more accessible, including opioid antidotes such as naloxone, which can help save the life of someone experiencing an overdose, and buprenorphine, which is used to help treat opioid use disorder.
“As a doctor, I know just how important it is to prepare for and respond to medical emergencies patients may encounter,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). “With thousands of lives lost to overdoses each year, we need a system in place to help residents struggling with substance use disorders who may be at risk for overdoses.”
Conaway sponsored A-5495/S-3803, which will permit certain paramedics to issue buprenorphine to patients who had to be administered an opioid antidote in an emergency. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli (D-Mercer) were co-sponsors.
“Due to the addictive nature of these drugs, unfortunately it is quite possible for someone who overdosed once to accidentally overdose again,” Vainieri Huttle said. “We must take a holistic approach to combating overdoses by also treating opioid use disorder itself with medicines such as buprenorphine.”
Another law (A-5703/S-3800), co-sponsored by Assemblymen John Armato (D-Atlantic), Verrelli and Conaway, will require certain health insurers to provide coverage for an opioid antidote without imposing prior authorization requirements. This will help expedite the availability of this medicine throughout the state.
“When you consider the prevalence of overdoses in our state and just how effective opioid antidotes can be in those situations, it is clear we must do everything we can to make this medication widely available,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer), a co-sponsor of the legislation with Vainieri Huttle and Verrelli. “Allowing anyone to obtain opioid antidotes and give them out or utilize them in emergency situations is one way we can help get this life-saving medicine into the hands of the many residents who need it.”