Heroin bill passes on unanimous vote in the Senate

• Lawmakers press for ability to use drug to counteract overdoses without fear of penalty

Sen. Chris Eaton’s legislation to increase access to naloxone passed unanimously on April 8 in the Minnesota Senate.

In doing so, lawmakers approved what has been termed “Steve’s Law” (Senate file 1900), which will permit a wider use of the opioid antidote.

The legislation will work to expand the access of naloxone to first responders as well as citizens.  It also will encourage a person to call 911 if another has overdosed — that caller will be free from criminal prosecution related to evidence at the scene.

Eaton, the bill’s chief author, shepherded the bill through committees as a tribute to her daughter, according to a press release from the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation.

“My daughter died in a fast food restaurant parking lot, where precious time was wasted while her companion hesitated to call 911,” Eaton said. “My goal is to save other young people’s lives and administer naloxone before it is too late.”

Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, connected with Eaton to bring the bill to the Legislature after she lost her fiance, Steve Rummler, to a heroin overdose.

“For Steve, and others too numerous to mention, this is a giant step forward,” she said. “It is time to reverse the number of overdose deaths.”

On the House of Representative’s side, Rep. Dan Schoen is the lead author of House file 2307, which is slated to reach the House floor before session’s end.

Other supporters and endorsers of the bill include the Minnesota Recovery Connection, American College of Physicians, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Medical Association.

At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar laws to bring this “Good Samaritan” concept to what has become a national tragedy.

More than 100 people die every day in the U.S. from a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the handheld  auto-injector form of naloxone, a treatment for heroin and other opioid overdoses that could prevent deaths from overdoses.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called the move an important step in the effort to save lives.

“The heroin epidemic in Minnesota and all across the country is deadly, and we need every resource available to prevent these tragic losses,” Klobuchar said. “The FDA’s approval of Evzio provides a powerful lifesaving tool to communities struggling with abuse, and I will continue to work to make sure we are using every tool available to fight this deadly epidemic.”

This week, Klobuchar also pressed the Drug Enforcement Administration to immediately implement bipartisan legislation that she passed in 2010 to expand drug take-back programs. With as many as four out of five heroin users having previously abused prescription drugs, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Klobuchar demanded that the DEA provide Americans with these expanded options to safely dispose of their unused medications.

Heroin use has become a major problem in communities across Minnesota.  In 2013, there were 54 deaths caused by heroin overdoses in Hennepin County. Hospital emergency departments visits for heroin have nearly tripled from 2004 to 2011. In the 7,000-person community of St. Francis, three young people have died of opiate-related overdoses since May.

Elk River has not been immune from the problems. Sherburne County saw nearly a dozen heroin overdose deaths in 2012.