Testimony in favor of SB 868 Prescribing and Dispensing Naloxone to Non-certificate Holders

Following is testimony given by Mark O’Brien, Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment. The statement was presented to the Finance Committee on behalf of Dr. Wen on March 16, 2017.

Chair Middleton, Vice-Chair Astle, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of SB 868. My name is Mark O’Brien, and I am the Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment for the Baltimore City Health Department. I am here today on behalf of Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Wen.

As the members of this committee know, Maryland is in the midst of an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose. I want to thank the committee and this legislature for the legislation passed two years ago to authorize standing order prescriptions for naloxone.

Because of that legislation, in Baltimore City over 20,000 people have been trained to recognize an overdose and respond with naloxone. Over 800 lives have been saved. One major barrier that keeps us from getting naloxone into more hands is the training requirement that SB 868 would eliminate.

Several other states, including our neighbors in Virginia and Pennsylvania, have made naloxone available essentially over the counter by issuing standing order prescriptions without a training requirement. The training is time-consuming and often unnecessary. It uses resources that could be devoted to purchasing and distributing more naloxone.

We want to empower and educate people to respond to an overdose. Many people need minimal instruction. Others may ask for more instruction. SB 868 gives our trainers flexibility to meet these needs.

Naloxone is safe. It has no effect on a person who hasn’t taken opioids. It’s also incredibly easy to use. We can trust our outreach teams and pharmacists to inform people as needed.

The other thing this bill does is expand the scope of overdose fatality review teams to also look at non-fatal overdoses.

We know that surviving an overdose is one of the biggest indicators that a person will die from an overdose. Looking more closely at these incidents will enable us to get a better picture of the trends that contribute to fatal overdose and the opportunities to intervene before death occurs.

I want to thank Senator Klausmeier and Delegate Barron for introducing this important legislation and DHMH and other partners for their work to ensure it takes the best approach and respectfully request a favorable report on SB 868.

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