GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Colorado lawmakers are one step closer to expanding access to a powerful medication used to counteract the effects of an opiate overdose.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted 5-1 to pass the bill on Thursday.
Currently, paramedics and physicians are the only ones who can administer Narcan, which is an opiod antagonist. However, the passing of Senate Bill 13-14 would give homeless shelters and those working with addicts the ability to use this drug to save lives.
Grand Junction paramedic Brian Lurvey said Narcan is commonly used to stop the immediate life threatening effects of opiate overdoses, including respiratory arrest or central nervous system depression.
"Narcan is a fairly safe used drug," Lurvey said. "We use it for a known or suspected medication overdose, so if it was not a medication we were able to reverse, it's still not going to affect them in any adverse ways."
Lurvey said Narcan can reverse an overdose of drugs such as morphine, Demerol, heroin, oxycodone, and other powerful painkillers.
Mesa County Sheriff's Office Community Outreach Deputy Chad Williams said a crackdown on painkillers by law enforcement has lead to a spike in heroin usage.
Addictions counselor Scott Aber said after years of treating heroin addicts, he's in favor of expanding access to a drug to prevent someone from dying of a heroin overdose.
"It's a lifesaver," Aber said. "If somebody has an overdose, whoever can have access and save that person's life, more power to it."
Some suggest anyone with access to Narcan be trained in administering the drug, since the overdosing patient can have an unpredictable reaction once the drug sets in.
"Say somebody is in that state of a drug overdose or in a very comatose situation, when they awake, they're very excited and aroused... up to wanting to hurt whoever is around," said Grand Junction firefighter Derek Trombetta. "They basically can wake up and become very violent because they don't know where they're at or what's going on."
The bill, backed by Democratic Senator Irene Aguilar, will be moving on to the appropriations committee before being voted on by the full Senate.