New Mexico took an unprecedented step in the national war against opioid and heroin abuse Thursday, becoming the first state to mandate that all local and state law enforcement officers carry antidotes to opioid overdoses.
Signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez, the measure was sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. It requires officers to carry kits containing naloxone, a drug that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, as well as educational materials about how to respond to overdoses.
In 2014, New Mexico had the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, second only to West Virginia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But over the last decade, New Mexico has taken aggressive steps to curb opioid-related death — including allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription and building a system that tracks painkiller prescriptions — and those efforts seem to have paid off. By 2015, the New Mexico Department of Health found that the state’s drug overdose death rate had fallen by nearly 10 percent.
But at about $70 each, naloxone kits aren’t cheap, and the new law doesn’t include any new funding to pay for them. However, each New Mexico police force receives annual funding for officer training, equipment, and supplies, and so a portion of that money will go towards the kits. The state will also pursue grants to help offset the costs, state Rep. Sarah Maestras Barnes, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Associated Press.
Law enforcement officers aren’t the only group now required to dispense naloxone. As part of the new law, federally-certified addiction treatment centers, prisons, and jails are required to provide patients with a two doses of naloxone and a prescription for a refill, at least as long as funding and supplies last. They will also have to educate these people on the causes of overdoses and what to do when they occur.