This past July, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed into law new opioids legislation, and Scotland County Health Department Director Margaret Curry reminds area residents that these measures went into effect August 28, 2017, giving Missourians three new tools in the fight against this epidemic.
Two of these measures are aimed at saving lives in the event of an overdose. The first provision authorizes Department of Health and Senior Services director Dr. Randall Williams to sign a standing order for naloxone prescriptions throughout the state. Under this order, anyone can receive naloxone from a pharmacist without having to first get a prescription from another physician.
“Naloxone is a safe and effective drug that has saved countless lives,” said Dr. Williams. “With this order, we are empowering the people of Missouri to intervene on behalf of family and friends in the event of an opioid overdose. I urge anyone who is at an increased risk for overdose to keep naloxone on hand in case of emergency. The same goes for any family member, friend, neighbor or acquaintance of someone suffering from opioid addiction—naloxone saves lives.”
The second measure is an expansion of Missouri’s “Good Samaritan” law. Under the new legislation, anyone who acts in good faith to assist in a drug or alcohol overdose can call for emergency assistance without fear of arrest or other penalties as a result of seeking or obtaining medical assistance. In the event of an overdose, this policy protects the victim and the person seeking medical help for the victim from possession charges.
“I want every Missourian to take this to heart: call 911 in the case of an overdose,” said Dr. Williams. “Our first responders are ready and able to respond but time has to be on their side if they’re going to be effective. Make the call and rest assured that our priority is to save lives, not pursue criminal charges. We think this is especially important for young people to remember.
“These two measures combined give us the greatest chance of reversing overdoses in our state. If we are all prepared to administer naloxone and immediately call for aid in the event of an emergency, we can make tremendous strides in reversing the trend of fatal overdoses in Missouri.”
The third change going into effect will allow people who have opioid addictions and are being treated with medication assisted therapy (MAT) to access Missouri’s drug courts. Previously, MAT patients were considered to still be “drug users” and therefore could be ruled ineligible for the rehabilitation-focused courts. The new measure recognizes MAT as a proven method of addiction treatment.