Honolulu City Council member introduces bill to cut down on opioid-related deaths
Following the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medication “naloxone” as an over-the-counter medication this morning, Honolulu City Council member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam introduced Bill 28, which requires certain bars, nightclubs, and other high-risk venues to maintain doses of naloxone spray on site in case of an overdose.
The opioid epidemic is an ongoing public health issue both locally and nationally and has been exacerbated by the escalating use of synthetic opioids, specifically fentanyl, according to a news release issued by Dos Santos-Tam
According to the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, from August 2017 to August 2018, there were 59 deaths in the State from an opioid overdose. In 2020, that number increased to 274, a nearly 500% increase.
“Narcan saves lives. With the widespread proliferation of synthetic opioids in our community, it is more important than ever that we make this life-saving resource as accessible as possible. Bill 28 is about keeping the public safe – it is about using every tool at our disposal to prevent accidental overdoses,” said Council member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam.
Honolulu’s Emergency Services Department has been administering naloxone for decades in cases of suspected overdoses. According to recent EMS data, about 42% of 1,044 patients who received naloxone showed improvement. For instances characterized specifically as overdoses, at least 72% improved in response. EMS data also shows that Native Hawaiians have the highest seven-year fatal and nonfatal rates of opioid poisonings, followed by Caucasians, African Americans, Japanese, Filipinos, and Chinese.
“Overdoses happen, especially when mixed with alcohol. Our bars and nightclubs must be prepared for every contingency. I am grateful that the City Council is taking on this important issue. This bill will protect businesses, patrons, and the public at large,” said Robbie Baldwin, owner of Scarlet Honolulu, a Chinatown nightclub, who supports the bill.
“Opioid-related overdoses are at an all time high in Hawaiʻi. Naloxone is a very safe drug that reverses overdoses and this measure will help get Naloxone into spaces where it will save lives. Learning how to use it and having access should be as standard as CPR training and access to AEDs”,” said Heather Lusk, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center.
If passed, this bill would be effective on Jan. 1, 2024. Dos Santos-Tam represents City Council District 6, which spans from Kakaʻako to Kalihi, and includes portions of Kakaʻako, Chinatown, Downtown, Punchbowl, Papakōlea, Pauoa Valley, Nu‘uanu, Iwilei, Liliha, ‘Ālewa Heights, Kalihi and Kalihi Valley.