A bill proposed in the Monroe County Legislature would require that anyone receiving a prescription for an opioid also get the medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose.
The legislation was scheduled to be introduced June 9 by Justin Wilcox. The bill is named Maisie’s Law, after a 9-month-old Brighton girl who died after ingesting an opioid pill that she found on the floor in a neighbor’s house.
If passed, the bill would require pharmacies to dispense at least one dose of Narcan (the brand name of naloxone) when filling an opioid prescription. The individual could decline, but the refusal has to be in writing. The bill will have to go through committee before it can be voted on. No timetable was given.
The bill is part of a comprehensive approach to the opioid epidemic that County Executive Adam Bello said he’d be announcing over the next few weeks. Bello campaigned on addressing opioids, which he at one time called the greatest public health threat in a generation.
Then came COVID-19. While it has dominated headlines the past three months, opioids continue to take lives and ruin neighborhoods, and some say there is overlap.
Through May of this year, Monroe County has recorded 65 fatal opioid overdoses. There were 47 fatal overdoses at this time last year. In addition, there have been 354 nonfatal overdoses this year, compared to 286 nonfatal overdoses in 2019.
African Americans made up about 13% of the people who overdosed. Latinos made up about 11% of people who sustained an overdoses in the first five months of 2020.
Of the 65 fatal overdoses this year, 41 occurred in March, April and May as COVID-19 spread. County mental health officials said that fewer people sought treatment at detox centers and outpatient clinics during those months.
Narcan is not new. Organizations such as the Father Tracy Advocacy Center and Trillium Health have made it available to people who use street drugs. The medication is a nasal spray, and given in time, it can prevent an overdose or death. It is harmless to anyone not in the throes of an opioid overdose.
Dr. Michael Mendoza, commissioner of the Monroe County Department of Public Health, called the proposed bill one piece of a larger community response that is needed.
“We know from data that the vast majority, over 75% of fatal overdoses, occur in private residences,” said Dr. Michael Mendoza. “Having access to naloxone in a residence just does that much more to get it out into the community, and to the extent that people will take it from home into the streets or into the areas where they’re using, expanding access to Narcan can only be a good thing.”
Because the law would affect only someone who has an opioid prescription, people using illegal opioids still need to find another avenue to Narcan.
Because the state covers the first $40 of a copay for Narcan, it’s essentially free for an individual who has health insurance. Individuals without insurance still would be able to get Narcan from the health department.