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Opioid Overdose Prevention ― Protections for Responders

posted on Mon, Jul 18 2016 2:43 pm by The Network

More than 28,000 Americans died in 2014 due to opioid overdose. This represents a tripling of the opioid overdose death rate since 2000. These overdoses are typically reversible through the timely administration of the medication naloxone and the provision of emergency care.

In an attempt to reverse the rising number of preventable overdose deaths, many states have recently amended their laws to increase access to emergency care for opiate overdose and encourage those who witness an overdose to summon first responders. The Network was recently contacted by a requestor who asked about liability for the administration of naloxone by law enforcement officers in Louisiana.

Louisiana provides strong protection for law enforcement officers who administer naloxone in an overdose:

“Any first responder administering an opiate antagonist in a manner consistent with addressing opiate overdose shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission in rendering such care or services or as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the person involved in said emergency, unless the damage or injury was caused by willful or wanton misconduct or gross negligence.” LA Rev Stat § 14:403.11.

A separate law also provides strong protection for laypeople who administer naloxone in an overdose:

“A person acting in good faith who, pursuant to the provisions of this Section, receives and administers naloxone or another opioid antagonist to a person reasonably believed to be undergoing an opioid-related drug overdose shall be immune from criminal and civil liability for the administration, unless personal injury results from the gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct in the administration of the drug.”  LA Rev Stat §40:978.2.

For more information on naloxone and the law, see the Network’s website on drug overdose prevention and harm reduction and the Network’s resource, Legal Interventions to Reduce Overdose Mortality, which provides a state-by-state breakdown of laws relevant to naloxone distribution and administration.