A state law that went into effect on July 1, will allow pharmacists to provide a life-saving medication, called an emergency opioid antagonist, to patients, first responders, school nurses, and bystanders without a prescription.

While opioid abuse is not yet at crisis levels in Kansas – Kansas currently ranks 41st in opioid related deaths — the Kansas legislature worked proactively in the passage of Kansas House Bill 2217 which makes it easier to get an emergency medication that can stop an opioid overdose into the hands of individuals that might find themselves in a situation where they can save a life.

Anyone receiving the medication from a pharmacist will have to first go through a consultation designed to educate them on how to identify someone experiencing an overdose, how to administer the medication, and will ask them to call 911 to get Emergency Medical Services to the person experiencing the overdose as soon as possible.

“We believe this law will save lives,” said Dr. Jody Reel, Kansas Pharmacists Association Governmental Affairs Chairperson. “Pharmacies already play an important role in the improvement of our individual and population health, and this law allows us to do even more.”

The price of naloxone has been climbing as demand has grown, but generic versions can still be purchased for as little as $40.

Olathe psychiatrist David Willey says nationwide deaths from prescription opioids are leveling off, suggesting physicians are tightening their prescribing practices. But at the same time deaths from illegal opiates are on the rise, suggesting people who are addicted are moving to cheap street drugs as an alternative.

He also said some users, especially young people, are going online and buying synthetic opioids that are like nothing he has ever seen before.

Ryan Jacobsen, the medical director for Johnson County Emergency Medical Services, said expanding access to naloxone is an important step, but it’s not the solution for fighting opioid abuse.

“It’s just a Band-Aid,” Jacobsen said. “You’re near death if you’re using that drug. We’ve already failed.”

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