Governor Steve Bullock announced a new effort and resources to combat opioid overdoses in Montana.
The new law, HB 333, was passed by the 2017 legislature and allows broad access to the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone.
The drug, when administered during an overdose, blocks the effects of heroin and opioids, restores breathing, and can prevent death.
The new law also allows trained first responders, public health professionals, and others to carry and administer naloxone.
Bullock said the new effort will save lives.
“Nationwide and in Montana, too many of our friends, our neighbors, our family members, are personally impacted by this opioid epidemic and too many lives have sadly abruptly ended," Bullock said. “While we may not have all the solutions, we do know that by working together we can make significant progress. This is one piece to the puzzle that will give folks a second chance at life.”
With help from a federal grant, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has funds available to purchase a limited supply of the drug for first responders and law enforcement across the state.
The Montana Department of Justice, Montana Medical Association, Board of Pharmacy, and Board of Medical Examiners have been involved in the statewide rollout of naloxone through the standing order issued by DPHHS.
Bryan Lockerby, administrator for the Division of Criminal Investigation at the Montana Department of Justice, said “This will help us tremendously when responding to emergency situations that call for the need to stabilize an individual in a crisis situation.”
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, a former EMT, said that with an opioid overdose every minute counts.
“It isn’t the golden hour of trauma, it is the absolutely platinum minutes of the opioid overdose time that you can make a difference,” Dutton said.
Dutton added the drug also has no negative affects if administered to someone not experiencing an opioid overdose and has no chance of addiction.
According to the state, there have been more than 700 deaths from opioid overdose in Montana since 2000.
A second bill, HB 323, passed by the legislature allows emergency use of naloxone in schools.
According to DPHHS, from 2000 to 2015, there have been 15 deaths among youth and children less than 18 years of age associated with opioid use.
Every year, on average, there 66 emergency department visits associated to opioid use in Montana. Twelve of those emergency department visits each year involved someone younger than 18.
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said that the new law will not fix the opioid crisis but it is a step in the right direction to fight it.
Montanans are advised to always call 911 whenever naloxone is administered.
For more information about naloxone and opioid abuse prevention, visit here.