North Country Assemblywoman pens bills that would require police to carry naloxone, provide transparency about opioid deaths
Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 5:37 pm

North Country Assemblywoman Addie Russell has penned a bill that will require state, county and local law enforcement agencies to be trained in the use of a medication that reverses an opioid overdose.

The officers would also be required to carry the medication in their patrol vehicles.

"Police officers are often the first emergency responders arriving at the scene of an overdose call, and it simply makes good sense to have state troopers, sheriff's deputies and city patrol officers trained in the use of naloxone so they can carry the medication and administer it in situations that literally can mean the difference between life and death," Russell said.

She also pointed out recruits are already being trained in the use of Naloxone at some police training programs, including the David Sullivan - St. Lawrence County Law Enforcement Academy at SUNY Canton.

"Police also have the training to appropriately address the agitation and combativeness that often occurs when naloxone is administered. That is even more important in rural areas when many of our first responders are volunteers serving on their local rescue squads," she noted.

The bill does include a provision that would allow county legislatures and city councils to pass legislation to opt out of requiring their officers to carry naloxone.

A second bill introduced by Russell aims to improve the tracking deaths from heroin and opioid abuse in New York State.

The New York State Department of Health is required to provide data on heroin and opioid abuse to the governor and members of the state legislature, but currently this information isn’t required to be made public.

"To the credit of the Department of Health, they have chosen by regulation to make that information available to the public. But this legislation would take it to the next level, and I am convinced additional information can only help communities and agencies working to combat heroin and opioid abuse in the North Country and around the state," Russell said.

She said data available on the state's heroin and opioid epidemic currently varies from county to county.

"It is just common sense for the Department of Health to share the data it already collects from local and county governments with the public so a true picture of the epidemic is public knowledge," she suggested.

The Department of Health, for example, currently lists an average of deaths from heroin and opioid addictions over a period of a few years.

The bill introduced by Assemblywoman Russell would require the data to include the actual number of deaths year-by-year and county-by-county over a five-year period. It would also include information on pre-hospital services and emergency room visits related to heroin and opioid abuse.

"I think those numbers are very important for our elected representatives, public health officials, non-profit agencies and concerned community members seek solutions to a crisis that is damaging the lives of far too many North Country families," Russell said.

"It is critical for those involved in this fight to have comprehensive data so they can examine trends and have data to support whether strategies they have taken are having an impact," she said.