A bill to require Narcan, the opioid reversal medicine, to be available in bars, gas stations, public libraries, and single-room occupancy hotels, was introduced on Monday in the Assembly.
Assembly Bill 24, authored by Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) would specifically require a person who owns, manages, or is responsible for a bar, gas station, public library, or single-room occupancy hotel in a county that is experiencing an opioid overdose crisis, to acquire and post an opioid antagonist kit, which includes an instructional poster and opioid antagonist nasal spray, in areas that are readily accessible only by employees.
The bill would require the California Department of Public Health to provide opioid antagonist kits free of charge and to make the determination on how best to allocate and distribute its limited supply of opioid antagonist among its various programs in the event of an opioid antagonist supply shortage. Violations of AB 24 would be a misdemeanor, with a fine of under $1,000 and jail for six months or less.
Assemblyman Haney authored the bill because of the opioid crisis in many California counties, and the growing number of fentanyl deaths across the state, with 6,843 opioid-related deaths occurring in California in 2021 alone. Haney argues that having Narcan in a nearby location would drastically cut the number of overdose deaths a year, with a later bill likely expanding it to even more places if passed. An incident, in which Haney helped save a man from overdosing by having a bystander give him a dose of Narcan in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, also helped influence his decision to write the bill.
“A lot of times, you cannot wait five minutes,” explained Haney. “We have a tool that can save lives, and it should be everywhere. The crisis is here now. People are dying now. We’re going to see a lot more deaths unless we do something dramatic. Every prediction I’ve seen is that this is going to get worse. We do expect cost to be the main criticism. It’s absolutely worth the cost to save a life.”
However, the cost of stocking so many places across the state, as well as restocking them, is expected to be quite high. While Haney did not put a dollar figure on the bill, estimates are expected soon. As a box of Narcan costs just under $50, stocking the medicine at so many places could eat up a chunk of the state budget.
“Haney needs to get the final figure out there first,” explained Los Angeles business owner Colleen Duncan, who would have several businesses affected by the bill if passed. “And what our responsibility would be. If an employee administers it wrong, could we be held responsible? And if the cost of this is really high, would businesses have to pay any associated costs?”
“Luckily I don’t think the taxpayers would stand for any crazy high amount. And, for businesses, we would really need to see cost-effectiveness. Many would think that the money should go to fighting fentanyl rather than paying a lot for that Narcan stuff. I think Haney will be surprised how many people will think that way too.”
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