HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday a new effort and resources to combat opioid overdoses in Montana.
Under the new law, HB 333, passed by the 2017 legislature, there is now 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 law 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,” said Bullock. “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.”
Thanks to 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 the Board of Medical Examiners have been involved in the statewide rollout of naloxone through the standing order issued by the health department.
“This will help us tremendously when responding to emergency situations that call for the need to stabilize an individual in a crisis situation," said Montana Division of Criminal Investigation administrator Bryan Lockerby.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, a former EMT, said every minute counts with an opioid overdose. “It’s isn’t the golden hour of trauma. It is the absolutely platinum minutes of the opioid overdose time that you can make a difference,” said Dutton.
Dutton added that the drug also has no negative effects if administered to someone not experiencing an opioid overdose. It also 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. DPHHS says that 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 are 66 emergency room visits associated with opioid use in Montana, according to DPHHS. Roughly 12 of those emergency room visits, each year, involved someone younger than 18.
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan told MTN that this will not fix the opioid crisis but is a step in the right direction. Montanans are always advised to always call 911 whenever naloxone is administered.
*Naloxone is used to reverse life-threatening opiate-induced respiratory depression. All patients should seek immediate medical attention after an overdose.