Heroin bill clears Senate panel

A state Senate panel gave quick approval Wednesday to legislation that would allow first responders to provide a life-saving drug to those overdosing on heroin.

House Bill 754 would give law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel the authority to administer a drug that reverses the effects of heroin during an overdose. The Health and Welfare Committee sent the measure to the Senate floor for debate.

East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said the drug reverses the effects of heroin and other opiates, “potentially saving lives.” Clark said in 2012, there were five deaths related to heroin in East Baton Rouge Parish. In 2013, the number climbed to 35, he said. So far in 2014, there have been ten deaths and another potential one.

Opiates generally slow down a body’s functions until those functions stop working properly, which leads to death. Law enforcement and emergency personnel in other states have found that the drug, naloxone — also known by the brand name Narcan — can save a life when given nasally or by injection shortly after the overdose.