CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill Tuesday aimed at intervening before patients get hooked on painkillers and making it easier for people to access medicine that can reverse potentially deadly overdoses.
The Republican governor signed SB459 into law in Las Vegas, during a policy workshop focused on prescription drug abuse prevention. The bill passed the Assembly in a 32-10 vote on Friday, and unanimously cleared the Senate.
"The passage of this bill was absolutely critical if Nevada is to be taken seriously in combating drug abuse," Sandoval said at a similar workshop in Carson City on Monday. "This bill will unquestionably save lives and keep families together."
The so-called "Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act" would reduce potential criminal penalties for people who report drug overdoses, and would also make it easier for people to access the non-addictive drug naloxone, which can help reverse opioid overdoses.
It would also require doctors do more to monitor a patient's prescription history and look for signs of excessive painkiller use.
Overprescribing painkillers can leave excess supplies in home medicine cabinets, where they can be snatched up by teens or others without prescriptions.
Surveys indicate that nearly 1 in 5 Nevada high school students have illegally taken prescription drugs in the past month, while the figure is 1 in 10 for middle school students, Sandoval said. He is co-chair of the prescription drug abuse task force on the National Governors Association.
But the issue is also personal. First lady Kathleen Sandoval said her cousin became addicted to painkillers after getting into a car accident, then moved on to heroin and later died of an overdose.
"It devastates families and destroys homes," she said of prescription abuse during a Monday speech. "It deprives young people of a bright, successful future and prevents working adults from sustaining successful careers."
Opponents of the bill said they voted against the measure because checking a patient's prescription history would add to doctors' already heavy workload.
"It's a feel-good bill," said Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen. "There's no evidence it's going to do any good."