JUNEAU — The Alaska House on Monday passed a bill that removes legal barriers for the use of a heroin overdose medication.
Advocates and health officials say the legislation will help Alaska combat its heroin epidemic, which claimed more than 25 lives last year. It's aimed at putting an anti-overdose drug, naloxone, into the hands of people like friends and family members of addicts — not just emergency responders.
It would make the medication available without a doctor's prescription, and grocery chain Fred Meyer has said it could start carrying naloxone once the legislation passed.
The bill, Senate Bill 23, was sponsored by Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, and passed the Senate last year in a 19-1 vote. Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, was the only member to vote against it.
The House vote Monday was unanimous, 36-0.
Because the House made changes to the bill after it passed the Senate, the Senate must vote to concur before the measure goes to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature. A spokeswoman for the governor said Walker will wait for the final version of the bill before deciding whether to sign it.
The bill was a rare legislative victory for a member of the Senate Democratic minority.
"Every year that passes we lose more lives to opioid overdose in Alaska," Ellis said. "Last year, 88 lives were lost all across the state. Naloxone gives second chances to Alaskans in dire, life-threatening situations who otherwise might not get them."