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Asm. Matt Haney proposal would require businesses to carry naloxone in first aid kits

Bill could make Narcan a standard medication in first aid kits
Bill could make Narcan a standard medication in first aid kits 03:43

SACRAMENTO – It's a scene that is growing more common. Someone slumps over in a public place, say a nightclub or a city park. They have intentionally or accidentally taken an opioid like fentanyl, which can be deadly upon first use for some people.

As their pupils constrict and they struggle to breathe, people scatter for help, call the cops or an ambulance, but the response is too late.

On Wednesday, state Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, introduced Assembly Bill 1976, a bill that would require all employers to keep naloxone nasal spray in first aid kits. Current regulations require all businesses who employ people to have a first aid kit in the breakroom or common space. Its contents are checked by inspectors from the city or county health department and regulated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA.

"So, if I see somebody who looks like they're overdosing, I can run into a store and ask for the first aid kit and pull it out," said Haney's spokesperson Nate Allbee. "Hopefully using that one to two minutes that they have to get someone naloxone before they die."

Naloxone is the life-saving ingredient in the overdose antidote brand Narcan. It has no significant side effects, even when mistakenly given to a person who has not taken opioids. In today's prices, it would cost $40 for the required two doses, which have a shelf life of four years.

According to Albee, that price may drop when the state begins to create their own supply, along with insulin, in the next five years.

"It's very similar to what happened with condoms in the 80s around the HIV epidemic. Previously, you had to go to the pharmacist and ask for the condoms," Allbee said. "We decided as a culture that we needed condoms to be ubiquitous and get them everywhere."

If AB 1976 is signed into law by the governor later this year, it would go into action Jan. 1, 2025. Businesses would then have another year to abide by the new law before any penalties go into effect.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as a pain reliever and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California reported 7,510 deaths from synthetic opioids in a 12-month period ending August 2023, a dramatic rise from 1,175 in 2019.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that more than half of the counterfeit prescription pills being trafficked in communities across the country now contain a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl.

The bill does not yet have co-sponsors, but Haney's office feels it is a no-brainer.

"Traditionally opponents of this kind of bill would be special business organizations like the chamber of commerce. But to be honest, at this point in the process, people are pretty much all in agreement that this is something that we need to do," he said.

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