Assemblymember Haney’s AB 24 will require opioid blockers in likely overdose locations
- Abigail Rivamonte Mesa
Sacramento - Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) announced that he has introduced legislation that will require opioid blocker nasal sprays--also commonly known as naloxone or by the brand name Narcan--to be kept in an area accessible to employees in gas stations, bars, libraries, and single room occupancy hotels (SROs), along with posters describing how to identify an overdose. Opioid blockers would only be required in counties experiencing an opioid crisis and would be dispersed through the mail, free of charge, by the California Department of Public Health.
California is now reaching new levels of the opioid crisis. Experts say that because of the availability of the new synthetic opioid fentanyl, opioid deaths have skyrocketed to 6800 in 2021. Even more terrifying is that fentanyl is now getting into the hands of youth. A staggering one out of every five California youths aged 15 to 24 who died in 2021 were killed by a fentanyl overdose.
The California Department of Justice, under Attorney General Rob Bonta, has seized over 4 million fentanyl pills and almost 900 pounds of fentanyl powder since last spring. “Stopping fentanyl from entering our communities must be a top priority for law enforcement,” said Assemblymember Haney. “But fentanyl is so cheap to make and so addictive that it’s spreading at a rate that will only get worse before it gets better. We have to aggressively go after the supply, but at the same time we have to immediately escalate our public health response to save lives.”
“The good news is that a fentanyl overdose can be completely reversed in 30 seconds by using an opioid blocker nasal spray as a first aid treatment,” said Dr. Paula Whitemen MD, FACEP, FAAP who spoke on the importance of opioid blockers at the most recent American College of Emergency Physician Scientific Assembly. “The medication binds to the same receptors in the brain used by opioids and reverses or blocks the drug. There are no side effects and they are completely safe to use even if it turns out the person is having a medical issue other than an overdose.’’
AB 24 is a new approach to stopping fentanyl deaths. Previously, opioid blocker distribution efforts focused on getting Narcan to opioid users themselves– one of the weaknesses to this approach is that opioid users can’t self-administer naloxone once they become unconscious. For an opioid blocker to be effective it requires that someone near to the person overdosing has access to the medication. AB 24 focuses on putting opioid blocker nasal spray, and clear directions on how to use it, into the hands of employees in these public locations where people are likely to overdose.
AB 24 is based upon similar public health interventions that require emergency tools—like first aid kits and fire extinguishers—to be posted in public locations. CDPH will check for compliance during regular inspections. Just like with first aid kits and fire extinguishers, locations will be fined up to 1000 dollars for not keeping these lifesaving tools in a place accessible to employees.
“If fentanyl continues to be cheaper and more accessible than opioid blockers we’re going to keep seeing an increase in overdose deaths,” said Haney. “Until we can cut off the source of fentanyl, we have a responsibility to make sure the only effective first aid response is always there when it's needed.”