BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill granting access to a drug that combats opioid overdoses without a prescription is moving quickly at the State Capitol.
HB 1007, sponsored by Rep. Helena Moreno, passed through the House without a single dissenting vote and is now waiting a vote on the Senate floor.
The bill would make Nalaxone, or its brand-name version Narcan, available over the counter. The drug can reverse an opioid or overdose, thereby saving lives. As it stands right now, the drug is available only with a prescription. Moreno said that creates a barrier.
"There's still that stigma, I think, for having to go to your doctor to ask for this prescription," Moreno said.
In previous years, legislation by Moreno got the drug into the hands of first responders and later made it available with a prescription, all in an effort to treat people quickly and without having to go to the hospital.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, heroin-related deaths have been on the rise in recent years. Moreno described it as an "epidemic."
In 2012, there were five deaths from overdoses in the parish. Just three years later in 2015, that number had increased eightfold to 41, according to the EBR Parish Coroner Dr. William "Beau" Clark.
Clark said he supports Moreno's bill. However, he said it is only "part of the solution" in dealing with the heroin problems. In addition, he said heroin needs to be eliminated from the community altogether. He also wants to ensure that doctors are not over-prescribing drugs and prescriptions.
"What we really need to do is treat your addiction, because that's the underlying problem," Clark said.
"The best solution would be for there to be enough treatment opportunities for people who are suffering with this addiction, but at this point that's just not available. So we need to do whatever possible to keep people alive," Moreno said.