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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Federal Judge Overrides California Naloxone Law

drug overdose
There isn’t an area in this country that has not been touched by the American opioid addiction epidemic. Rich or poor, white or black, urban or rural. And even those who are cut off from the outside world, such as inmates in jail or prison, manage to acquire the potentially deadly class of narcotics. Anything from prescription opioids, like OxyContin, to heroin. While it may be more difficult to get one’s hands on drugs when living behind bars, their ability to cut one's life short are just the same.

If you have been following news related to the epidemic, or you yourself know an addict personally, you probably have some knowledge about opioid addiction. You are probably aware that in the case of an overdose, the deadly symptoms can be reversed with the drug naloxone. The relatively easy to use drug, has reversed thousands of overdoses in recent years. As a result, both lawmakers and health experts have been working tirelessly to make it easier for people to acquire naloxone. Equipping first responders with the drug has been a major priority. In some states the drug can now be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription, which means that an addict's family member can administer the drug. With overdoses, time is of the essence. Seeing as first responders can’t always make it in time, loosening restrictions on naloxone has saved lives that would have otherwise been lost.

Depending on which state you live, the rules regarding who can prescribe and/or administer naloxone vary. In California, registered nurses can administer the drug without first receiving permission from a doctor, but not licensed vocational nurses (LVN), the Associated Press reports. The time it takes for an LVN to receive permission to administer the antidote might be too long. U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco approved the request of a federal receiver to waive the state law, thus allowing vocational nurses to administer the live-saving drug. There are about 1,800 licensed vocational nurses working for the state prison system.

Federal receiver J. Clark Kelso, says that 17 inmates die each year on average from a drug overdose, according to the article. An analysis of California prison deaths, showed that California prison overdose deaths are three-times the national prison drug overdose death rate.

LVN’s "are predominantly our first responders for health care services in the prison system," Kelso spokeswoman Joyce Hayhoe said. "The LVNs really function as our EMTs and paramedics in the prison system, so that's why we needed them to be able to administer these lifesaving drugs." 

The nonprofit Prison Law Office and the State, both agreed with federal receiver's request.

It is important to remember, the decision on whether a drug offense is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the type of drug and the amount found in your possession. Contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower if you are facing being charged for a drug offense. 

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