<p>California Bill to Implement Statewide Overdose Prevention Strategy Faces Budget Hurdle</p>
SACRAMENTO—The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the National Drug Control Strategy, which included strong support for overdose prevention programs and expanded access to the overdose reversal medicine naloxone.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), and a number of overdose prevention experts believe this high-profile endorsement may spur greater support Bloom’s bill AB 831 as it hits the hurdle of California’s Assembly Appropriations Committee. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the state. More Californians die from a drug overdose than from a motor vehicle accident. In recent years, there were a thousand more overdose death each year than gun homicides.
“It is gratifying to see the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy supports the solutions we’ve laid out in our bill,” said Bloom. “The overdose crisis in California worsens every year and now is the time for action. The National Drug Control Strategy makes it clear that states like California should tackle the overdose problem with evidence-based solutions that work for communities, at-risk patients and families.”
While Bloom’s bill would appropriate a modest $500,000 to establish a grants program for overdose prevention programs, it is not a foregone conclusion that any new spending can pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee that will hear the bill on May 1. The bill earned strong bipartisan support in the Assembly Health Committee in a recent hearing, though some expressed concerns on how to fund the grants program.
The grants funding would be included in the 2014-2015 budget to support local drug overdose projects to train laypersons, including patients, caregivers and first responders, on how to prevent, recognize and respond to a drug overdose. The bill specifically allows for grant funding to provide the opiate overdose medication naloxone to at-risk persons, an approach highlighted and supported in the White House strategy. In addition to establishing a grants program for overdose prevention programs, AB 831 would also convene a temporary task force of experts to create a plan to reduce the number of overdose deaths statewide.
“Overdose prevention programs don’t just save lives, but can reduce health costs to taxpayers, as well,” said Meghan Ralston, Harm Reduction manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, sponsors of the bill. “Assemblymember Bloom is championing approaches to the problem that have proved effective in other states such as Massachusetts, as described in the National Drug Control Strategy, and is seeking an extremely modest amount of funding to bolster the success of programs across the state. This is the number one cause of accidental death in California,” said Ralston. “We urgently need to start funding efforts to do something about it.”
AB 831 has no none opposition and is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, parents groups, associations representing emergency room physicians and addiction specialists, public health organizations, treatment providers and advocacy groups, including: California ACEP-American College of Emergency Room Physicians, California Society of Addiction Medicine, Amity Foundation, A New PATH, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, Broken No More, California Hepatitis Alliance, California Opioid Maintenance Providers, Center for Living and Learning, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Clean Needles Now, Glide Health Services, Harm Reduction Coalition, HealthRIGHT360, Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, La Ventana Treatment Programs, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Los Angeles Community Health Outreach Project, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse, Mothers With a Purpose, National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, Safer Alternatives Thru Networking and Education, San Francisco Hepatitis C Task Force, and others.