COLUMBUS, OH – With drug overdoses on the rise, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged the federal government to help first responders maintain a supply of naloxone for use in an opioid overdose emergency. According to the Columbus First Department, Columbus Fire and Police have saved 1,156 lives using naloxone in 2016, including more than 200 in July alone.

“In an emergency, administering naloxone can reverse an overdose and save Ohioans’ lives – but only if the drug is readily available and the first responders on the scene know how to use it,” said Brown. “Our first responders need emergency funding to maintain a supply of critical drugs like naloxone, and they need training to use those medications effectively. It should not be easier for Ohioans to get their hands on opioids than it is for first responders to access these life-saving drugs.”

At Columbus Fire Station 3, Brown was joined by Columbus City Council President Zach Klein; Columbus City Councilmember Mitchell Brown; Dr. Teresa Long, Columbus Health Commissioner; local first responders; and Michelle Wolfe, a Gahanna resident who has recovered from addiction.

Last month, the President signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act  into law, which represents an initial step toward addressing the opioid abuse epidemic. Although the legislation authorized grants to provide training and resources for first responders to use overdose reversal drugs like naloxone, it did not include sufficient funding for prevention, emergency response, treatment, or recovery.

Brown has introduced legislation that would help address the opioid epidemic from prevention to recovery, filling in gaps that would help: boost prevention, improve tools for crisis response for those who fall through the cracks, expand access to treatment, and provide support for lifelong recovery.

Specifically, Brown’s bill, the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Reduction Act, would:

Prevent Addiction by:

  • Implementing regular trainings for health care professionals who prescribe opioids to improve their ability to diagnose addiction.
  • Creating a grant program to improve tracking and reporting of fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses.

Respond to Ohioans in Crisis by:

  • Providing funding for communities to train first responders, physicians, pharmacists, and the public to respond quickly and effectively to prevent overdoses.
  • Making naloxone – a safe and effective medication that can reverse overdoses – more affordable and accessible, to ensure the medication can quickly reach communities that need it the most.
  • Funding syringe exchange programs that often offer a path to connect patients to treatment while decreasing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Expand Access to Treatment by:

  • Focusing effective medication-assisted treatment (MAT) on regions experiencing rapid increases in heroin and prescription opioid use.
  • Authorizing grants to increase access to residential treatment programs for pregnant and post-partum women who are struggling with addiction and creating a pilot program to allow for outpatient treatment services for pregnant women along the continuum of care.
  • Expanding the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) capacity to award grants to states experiencing rapid increases in heroin or other opioid use and to respond quickly using evidence-based interventions.
  • Increasing the pool of trained care providers by creating a loan repayment program for health professionals who treat individuals with substance use disorders.

Support Life-Long Recovery by:

  • Creating a National Youth Recovery Initiative by establishing a new grant program for accredited recovery high schools and institutions of higher education to provide substance use recovery support services to high school and college students.
  • Expanding recovery support services through mentorship, peer support, community education and outreach (including naloxone training), programs that reduce stigma or discrimination against individuals with substance use disorders, and developing partnerships between recovery support groups and community organizations.
  • Strengthening parity in mental health and substance use disorder health insurance benefits.