BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed legislation Thursday expanding access to “opioid antagonists” like naloxone, calling it an incremental step toward addressing the challenge of opioid addiction.

Little noted that there were 116 overdose deaths in Idaho in 2017, up from 44 a decade ago.

“House Bill 12 gives Idaho the tools necessary to reverse this trend,” he said.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s office says naloxone and other opioid antagonists “reverse the effects of opioids and can be lifesaving when an opioid overdose occurs.”

The agency notes that people who take more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day of heroin or prescription opioid drugs are twice as likely to overdose as people taking a lesser dosage. It recommends that clinicians co-prescribe naloxone to patients who meet that threshold.

The federal government lists naloxone as a prescription-only drug. However, Little noted that Idaho has previously chosen to ease access. State law allows “prescribers or pharmacists” to provide the drug to patients. House Bill 12, which passed the House and Senate unanimously, expands that to allow any licensed health professional to prescribe and dispense the drug.

“This gives Idaho the broadest naloxone access laws in the United States,” Little said.

Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, was the Senate floor sponsor for the bill. He was invited to participate in Thursday’s bill-signing ceremony.

“I’m honored that this was the first piece of legislation I sponsored as a senator,” he said. “This is an important first step in addressing the ongoing opioid crisis. Individuals who had no other option in the past will now have access to a lifesaving drug.”

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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