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Bipartisan bills create needle exchanges, offer drug to reverse overdoses

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Posted at 4:38 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 18:38:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A series of legislation is being proposed that attempts to stop the high numbers of overdose deaths in the state of Utah.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers stood side-by-side to announce a package of bills that would offer funding and resources to help people battling Heroin and other opioid addictions.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, announced a bill to declare overdose deaths in Utah a “public health emergency,” clearing the way for more funding. She also planned a bill to put Naloxone in the hands of police officers and nurses. The drug has been shown to reverse the effects of overdoses, in some cases.

Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, proposed a bill that seeks to put repositories for outdated and expired prescription drugs at pharmacies.

Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, is running bills to offer training on Naloxone and better track overdoses.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is running legislation to allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone to at-risk people, family members of those people or substance abuse workers. He is also planning a needle-exchange program to combat HIV, Hepatitis and other diseases.

“I believe everyone in this room has been affected by this,” Rep. McKell told a crowded room where the bills were being unveiled on Friday.

Erin Finkbiner said Naloxone has saved her life. She overdosed on heroin, but has been clean for 21 months now. On Friday, she praised lawmakers for their action.

“To give people the chance to get to where I am would be amazing. So I think the more awareness we can make of the situations, the better, the more opportunity,” she told FOX 13.

The Utah Dept. of Health estimates that overdose deaths in Utah kill more people than firearms or car crashes. Rep. Spackman Moss said Utah ranks fourth highest  in the nation in overdose deaths.