- Chuck Raska is 1st Vice President of the Iowa Firefighters Association.
Fentanyl has heightened the risk for fatal opioid overdose and worsened an already aggressive opioid epidemic in Iowa. Yet, many of the deaths we see from opioid overdose in our state are preventable with a simple resource. Whether it’s a firefighter, family member, teacher, or bystander who steps in as a first responder in an emergency overdose situation, one thing remains true: having access to a potentially life-saving medication is critical to prevent a dangerous situation from becoming deadly.
Fortunately, our state Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds have acted to enact legislation that will provide further resources and protections to those brave men and women who render life-saving aid, as well as those suffering from the harms of opioid overdose by ensuring that first responders have access to naloxone and other potentially life-saving opioid overdose reversal medications.
Provisional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that in the 12-month period ending in January 2022, Iowa saw 479 fatal opioid overdoses — up 12% from the period ending in January 2021. Stories across the state remind us on a daily basis how the epidemic is affecting our neighbors and family members and how naloxone is changing the course of our response to the crisis.
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Naloxone is a Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine used to reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose and revive an individual in an emergency. Ensuring naloxone is accessible in Iowa communities, and to our first responders who may unknowingly come into contact with such substances during a routine traffic stop, is critical to fighting the opioid crisis in our state.
This May, the state Legislature passed legislation — House File 2573 — that provides important resources that those on the front lines of the opioid crisis need. Specifically, the bill establishes an Opioid Antagonist Medication Fund created to ensure that first responders have access to naloxone and other potentially lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medications. Lives will be saved by improving access to opioid antagonists.
Additionally, the law creates an opioid settlement fund for national opioid settlement awards. From this newly created fund, the law appropriates $3.8 million to the University of Iowa Hospitals medication addiction treatment program. The law also allows a school district to obtain a prescription for an opioid antagonist and maintain a supply of opioid antagonists.
Iowa first responders must have access to opioid overdose reversal medications such as naloxone to help fight preventable deaths from fatal opioid overdose and to ensure their own protections in the event of inadvertent exposure. House File 2573 is the law our state needed to protect those in our communities who are at risk for overdose and unexpected exposure.
Thank you to legislators and to Reynolds for addressing the opioid crisis with meaningful protections and support for public safety officers and Iowans who continue to suffer amid the opioid epidemic. We need to continue working to ensure all communities across Iowa can access potentially lifesaving naloxone and related treatments, and this measure is one critical step to effectively addressing the impact of the opioid crisis in our state.
Chuck Raska is 1st Vice President of the Iowa Firefighters Association and has served as a firefighter for 20 years. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.