New York lawmakers have passed a bill to boost the availability of the antidote drug for heroin overdoses.
The bipartisan measure would allow health care professionals to write a general prescription for naloxone to pharmacies and certified training programs, which would then issue the kits to anyone at risk of an overdose or their caretaker and would instruct them on how to administer the drug.
Sen. Kemp Hannon, chairman of the Senate health committee, said Wednesday that the state health department will come up with regulations for distribution, the number of dosages for naloxone kits and the cost of a kit.
"We have a generation of young people who are not aware of how easy it is to get addicted and the devastating parts of the addiction," the Long Island Republican said.
The bill now goes to the governor's office for his signature. A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo had no immediate comment on whether he would sign the bill.
The legislation comes at a time when heroin deaths in the state have more than doubled from 215 in 2008 to 478 in 2012, a trend that is expected to increase. Hannon said he believes the bill "responsibly addresses" the state's heroin epidemic.
Current law allows only doctors to prescribe naloxone to a specific person and allows police, emergency medical responders, first responders and certain advocacy groups to carry the kits.
The Assembly unanimously passed the bill Tuesday; it got unanimous approval in the Senate in March.
"I don't view health as a field for partisanship," Hannon said.
Naloxone, marketed under the name Narcan, can be administered either through injection into muscle or inhalation.
Currently, the VOCAL-NY advocacy group gives out kits that contain two doses of the opiate antidote, a breathing mask, instructions, gloves and alcohol swabs. Police departments also can obtain naloxone kits for roughly $60 each through Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office.