Within the course of the past decade, the need for reconsidering the way some prescription medications has been high on the agenda. With surprising statistics of deaths associated with substance abuse in New Jersey, legislators have decided to make a change for the better. This essay focused on assessing the “Act concerning overdose prevention and the dispensation of opioid antidotes” introduced in New Jersey in 2017 (New Jersey Legislature, 2017, p. 1). The paper will assess the intentions behind the bill, the potential implications for the healthcare industry, and the community as a unity, as well as how different stakeholders perceive the new legislation. The legislation has predominantly received positive feedback from state representatives, the general public, and professionals in the healthcare industry because of its attempt to curb substance overdose and treat this issue as if it is a chronic condition that requires immediate medical relief.
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The process of introducing and passing a bill in a state such as New Jersey is complex and requires the involvement of numerous stakeholders that get affected by policy changes. Policies that can affect the direction of health care are especially important to consider because the citizens’ health is at stake. In this assignment, a New Jersey Act on regulating overdose prevention and dispensation of opioid antidotes will be evaluated.
New Jersey Legislative Process
In order for a bill to become law in New Jersey, a complex path should be completed. The legislative process of the state follows an all-encompassing set of rules for the Assembly and the Senate. First, a draft for a new law is created by a legislator who had an initial idea. This legislator should explain what new laws should be introduced and ask the Office of Legislative Services to complete a draft. After the completion of the first stage, the bill should be introduced to the Senate of Assembly’ secretary for a first reading and to receive a bill number in order to become public. When a bill passes all preliminary stages, it is then transferred to committees and hearings that allow the public to make changes; then, the law is called for a vote. Once a bill passes all procedures in the house of the Legislature, it should be reconciled and considered in other houses. It is important to mention that when a bill is changed in a House where it did not originate, it is sent back for additional amendments. In the case when there are differences in versions of the same bill between two houses, a conference committee is held for resolving the points of difference and creating an identical bill that both houses can pass. When both the Assembly and the Senate pass the bill, it is presented to the governor who has several options of action, such as conditional veto, absolute veto, signing the bill, or taking no action.
For this assignment, it was chosen to analyze the bill that legalized the sale of over-the-counter overdose antidotes: “An Act concerning overdose prevention and the dispensation of opioid antidotes, supplementing P.L. 2003, c. 280 (C.45: 14-40 et seq.), and amending P.L. 2013, c. 46) (New Jersey Legislature, 2017, p. 1). Under the bill, pharmacists were allowed to sell the public antidote medicine to heroin or opioid drug overdose without any medical prescription; moreover, professionals who work behind counters were given the power of judgment to decide whether individuals who buy antidotes were capable of administering the medication. The rationale for selecting this bill for review is associated with its intention to increase the chances of preventing drug overdose by eliminating barriers that used to shelter individuals from buying overdose antidotes without prescription. As mentioned in the statement by Assemblyman Daniel Benson, there is a possibility of “more lives saved if a pharmacist does not have to obtain an individual order from a physician each time” (as cited in Livio, 2017, para. 10). Since it has been reported that opinion-drug overdoses contributed to the deaths of 1,600 people in New Jersey in 2015 and the antidote reversed 10,000, simple math shows that the passing of the bill will have a positive effect on citizens’ health.
Benefits and Limitations of the Bill
Upon the bill’s review, it has become evident that its benefits outweigh the limitations due to the high expectations of the bill increasing the likelihood of citizens being able to reverse their overdose and reduce the chances of overdose-associated deaths (Frostenson, 2017). A great advantage of the bill is that both Republicans and Democrats have similar opinions on curtailing the abuse of opioids not only in New Jersey but also in states such as Massachusetts with a Republican governor, but a Democrat state legislature. The fact that such states in which the political opposition has reached a unanimous consensus regarding curbing opioid abuse points to the extreme value of the bill. Starting to treat substance abuse as a chronic condition is a step toward eliminating the problem of Americans dying from overdoses. When it comes to the bill’s limitations, they were hard to identify. Among the possible disadvantages was the idea that pharmacists were left to judge whether buyers of antibodies can administer medication themselves, which is an ethical issue associated with a duty to the patient (Pozgar, 2014). Giving pharmacists such power may potentially lead to some complications and personal misunderstandings.
Popular opinion was that the bill was among the most aggressive that the state’s legislature passed. On the other hand, a Rutgers survey conducted with New Jersey citizens indicated that only 20-30% of respondents were concerned about becoming addicted to pain medicine, which pointed to optimistic bias (Yanovitzky, 2017). Therefore, the aggressive nature of the bill may not be a disadvantage but rather the advantage that could raise awareness of the problem. While no financial impact statement was attached to the bill, the financial implications of the bill were surprising. As reported by Frostenson (2017) for Vox, the government provides financial support to curbing opioid overdose, with authorizing hundreds of millions “annually to fight the opioid epidemic […] with almost unanimous support” (para. 20). It can be concluded that several years will need to pass in order to identify the true disadvantages of the bill.
Personal Perspective on the Bill
From a personal viewpoint, the bill is beneficial in many aspects. First, it is important to mention that the legislation changed the perception of drug abuse and overdose by treating it as a chronic condition for which people should not be shamed. Eliminating the barrier of prescriptions to make the process of buying opioid antidotes quicker and easier is not only a brilliant idea but also an attempt to reduce the influence of complex processes that limit citizens’ abilities to get immediate help. In my opinion, the bill should have been passed much earlier because the statistics of substance overdose have remained shocking for a while. The implications of the bill are endless not only for New Jersey but for the entire country. If the bill brings beneficial implications for one state, the reduction of prescription-based restrictions for obtaining antidotes to opioids will inevitably become a nation-wide rule. Personally, I think that the bill should be treated as a massive step toward eliminating the problem of opioid overdose and facilitate subsequent updates in policy to ensure the program’s effectiveness in the long-run.
Attitudes of Stakeholders on the Policy
The opinion of key healthcare stakeholders on the benefits of the new policy has been unanimous. While such a widespread agreement on an important health care problem is uncommon, the fact that both policymakers and healthcare professionals agree with the potential benefits of the bill shows that the community is ready for drastic changes. Stakeholders affected by the bill should be prepared for providing an adequate stock of opioid antidotes, which means not only the insurance of healthy reserve stocks but also the investment into staff training. The approved amendments to the bill have also mentioned the possibility of schools acquiring an interim supply of necessary medication in accordance with the Overdose Prevention Act. Therefore, the scope of the policy is wide, which means that relevant stakeholders should be prepared for the proposed increases in antidote use and provide the public with the services they need. The New Jersey Nurses Association is among the most impacted stakeholders that should be contacted when getting feedback on the bill because the organization is the one responsible for ensuring effective practitioners’ training and providing the public with relevant information on the policy regulating the purchasing of prescription opioid antidotes. The New Jersey Nurses Association has an official website and can be contacted via email or social media ([email protected]). There is also a phone number available for citizens to call and get the necessary information.
Impact on Nurses and Nursing Profession
The most noticeable effect of the bill on nurses and the profession as a whole is associated with the increased demand for additional training. In the past, nurses relied on prescriptions provided by doctors to make sure that patients need to take opioid antidotes to reveal the adverse effect of the substance. However, with the passing of the bill in New Jersey, nurses and pharmacists are given the power to make decisions on the eligibility of patients to take opioid antidotes. Importantly, pharmacists are expected to act “in good faith would be immune from lawsuits or criminal or civil penalties,” which puts additional pressure on professionals’ judgment and whether they should allow citizens to purchase opioid antidotes without a doctor’s prescription (Livio, 2017, para. 4). Therefore, the nursing profession as a whole will have to make some changes in the way patients’ needs are being perceived because there could be someone’s life at stake. It is advised to invest in additional training of professionals on the most effective practices associated with selling medication. Pharmacists are recommended to educate themselves on the implications of them allowing or not allowing citizens to purchase antidotes and be prepared to act in good faith in order to save a life. It is expected that the nursing profession will be subjected to most scrutiny associated with the bill because the responsibility has shifted onto them and there is no unified approach to selling opioid antidotes.
Bayonne is divided between the Eighth and Tenth Congressional Districts; while the former is represented by Albio Sires (https://sires.house.gov/contact/email), the latter is represented by Donald Payne Jr (https://payne.house.gov/contact/email-me). With regards to the representation of the state in the United States Senate, Senator Sandra Cunningham (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/SelectRep.asp) was chosen as the New Jersey Representative. The state of New Jersey is governed by Phil Murphy (http://nj.gov/governor/contact). Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight are also available for contact (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/SelectRep.asp). In order to get a full understanding of the bill and assess how the healthcare sector in New Jersey will change, contacting the mentioned state representatives is important. Their contact information can be found on official websites, with phone numbers available for calls. Not only will they give an informed answer to citizens’ questions but will also collect the public’s feedback on how the bill can be amended in the future to improve the procedure of selling opioid antidotes.
To conclude, the bill that passed in New Jersey has the potential to change the way the healthcare industry treats substance abuse and can improve the devastating statistics of deaths associated with overdose. While giving pharmacists the power to judge whether a person is eligible for purchasing opioid antidotes can cause potential misunderstandings, the beneficial implications of the policy outweigh the negative impact. In addition, it is expected that the policy will include amendments in the future to ensure the sustainability of the bill in the long-run.
Frostenson, S. (2017). New Jersey just passed on of the most aggressive laws to combat the opioid epidemic. Vox. Web.
Livio, S. (2017). N.J. just legalized over-the-counter sale of heroin overdose antidotes. Web.
New Jersey Legislature. (2017). P.L.2017, chapter 88, approved June 9, 2017 Senate, No. 295 (first reprint). Web.
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Pozgar, D. (2014). Legal and ethical issues for health professionals (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Yanovitzky, I. (2017). December 2017 partnership for drug-free New Jersey (PDGNJ) study. Web.