Bipartisan bills underway to make Narcan more accessible to fight opioid epidemic

"We actually saw an increase in overdoses in 2020 after seeing a decrease the previous year," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

At the State Capitol, a group of lawmakers are pushing for sweeping bipartisan legislation aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic. The bills look to expand access to life-saving drugs in hospitals and on the street.

"The first piece of legislation would expand the naloxone (Narcan) standing order that as chief medical executive I signed into legislation to give community-based organizations the ability to directly purchase and distribute naloxone," she said.

The current standing order allows for Narcan to be dispensed from a pharmacist but restricts community-based organizations from accessing this medicine which rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

"My bill addresses expanding the naloxone standing order," said Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township). "This will truely help a person dealing with addiction have a second chance to conquer addiction

The second piece of legislation works to expand the availability of treatment for opioid use disorder in emergency departments.

But doctors say treating a patient in the ER for an overdose does not go far enough if community organizations can't get involved

"I'll be honest, without the appropriate assistance in place to assure that the treatment can be continued after the patient leaves the emergency department, ED physicians have historically been reluctant to provide this treatment," said Dr.Daniel Roper, Mercy Health St. Mary's Campus in Grand Rapids. "But now that these barriers are being lifted, the ED physicians at our hospital are very excited to start this treatment knowing that doing so can change the direction of someone's life."

The President and CEO of the Youth Connection believes passage of this legislation is a necessary step to ending the crisis.