D.C. Council considers allowing public access to opioid antidote

WASHINGTON — D.C. leaders are considering a bill that, if approved, would allow local caretakers to administer potentially life-saving drugs to patients who need them.

Under D.C. Bill 0602, medical professionals would be able to give opioid antidotes without liability. As a result, they’d be able to train, dispense and prescribe the drug.

Other states and jurisdictions have approved similar legislation.

“Without this bill, D.C. residents’ access to Naloxone will be unnecessarily limited,” said Andrew Bell, of Helping Individual People Survive.

People like Bell, who have experience delivering Naloxone, told a D.C. council committee why it should give patients and caretakers the ability to administer it.

“Given that Naloxone has been proven to be safe for decades, I’m very, very comfortable with pharmacists prescribing the drug,” said Dr. Adam Visconti, who works at two area hospitals.

In Maryland, he said, third-party protection allows him to train caretakers and give them a prescription for the drug. He can’t do the same for patients in D.C.

“Sadly, I had to tell a mother who had a child taking high levels of prescription opioids, I couldn’t prescribe her Naloxone because she lives in D.C.,” he said.

Visconti has previously worked in San Francisco, where public training translated to a turnaround in overdose fatality numbers, on the rise nationally. He said patients don’t have time to wait for EMTs to arrive and administer the antidote.

“There are standardized training programs,” he said. “It takes 30 minutes and it allows us to train individuals and trainers.”

The bill’s sponsor, Health and Human Services committee chair Yvette Alexander, has high hopes for a change.

“With this legislation,” she said, “it’s my hope we can save lives by increasing access to safe medication.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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