Tiffany Seda-Addington has been fighting for expanded access to naloxone for nearly three years. Ever since her best friend James Carmack died of a heroin overdose at his mother’s house.
“When James died,” Tiffany said. “It was immediately we have to do something.”
That “something” that she and others in Pulaski County, Missouri, decided to fight for was expanded access to naloxone, also known as Narcan. It’s the opioid overdose antidote that essentially brings a person dying from a heroin or opioid overdose back to life.
Throughout the country, the opioid epidemic continues and many are looking for ways to reduce the number of overdose deaths. This year Missouri did not pass a prescription drug monitoring system – making it the last state in the country to not have one. But a bill did pass the state legislature and could put naloxone into the hands of the families and friends of addicts.
This new bill, House Bill 1568, would allow any individual to go to a pharmacy and get naloxone without a prescription. Just like with vaccines.
Since James’ death, Tiffany and others in Pulaski County, like Sheriff Ron Long and Steven Lynch, their state representative, have been pushing for expanded access to naloxone – first getting the drug into the hands of first responders.
Last year, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s department became the first in the state to carry naloxone in their cruisers. But Tiffany said while this was a big step forward, it still wasn’t enough. So she started carrying naloxone at all times, and giving it to the concerned families and friends of addicts in the community even though it’s not legal.
"It's not a controlled substance,” Tiffany said. “What it is is that if I give that [naloxone] out or use it… it is practicing medicine without a license.”
But she says it’s worth the risk and the right thing to do.
Steven Lynch, the state representative for Pulaski County says he is excited the bill passed with bipartisan support – passing the Missouri House of Representatives 147 to two in early May.
“I know that this Narcan bill, which puts that rescue drug in the hands of family members and friends, which is where most of the overdoses happen, will save hundreds of lives every year throughout the state,” Lynch said.
After the bill passed, Tiffany met me at a coffee shop in Pulaski County, Missouri, and talked about the success of the bill.
She said she was thrilled when she heard the news, but, at first, it didn’t really hit her because she has been working toward this for so many years.
“My mom called me and told me and it didn't really hit me yet. So we're talking and she's like ‘Hey, Narcan passed.’ and I was like ‘Oh, okay. That's cool,’” Tiffany said. “Then I got off the phone and I went downstairs to put clothes in the laundry bin. And then it just really - it was like getting hit by a truck. I was like ‘Holy crap. We did it. It passed… It actually happened.’”
Governor Jay Nixon has not yet signed the bill into law, but a spokesperson for his office said they are expecting that bill to be delivered to the governor this week – and Governor Nixon will then have until mid-July to either veto or sign the bill.
Lynch said that he is very confident that the Governor will sign the bill into law, and Tiffany said that the Governor would be “stupid” not to sign it.
Both Tiffany and Lynch agree that there is other harm reduction legislation that needs to get passed in Missouri. Lynch spoke about the need for a Good Samaritan law, which would protect those who are high themselves from being prosecuted if they call to report someone else’s overdose.
Tiffany added that there needs to be more funding and access to treatment in the state, and that she would like to see a needle exchange be available for those struggling with addiction.
While Tiffany is excited that this bill will likely be law and that the family and friends of addicts will have access to naloxone, she admits that the success of the bill is bittersweet.
“James is gone. We don't get him back. We don't get an opportunity to redo that. We don't get an opportunity to continue offering him recovery. He's gone,” she said. “[But] there are so many other people in this community - we get a chance to say ‘Hey. You're still here. Let's make things better, you know… Let's get you into treatment.’”