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Statewide standing order suggested for drug that can reverse heroin overdoses

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North Carolina’s Health Director Dr. Randall Williams is asking lawmakers to help him create a standing order for everyone in the state to be allowed access to a medication called naloxone.

He tells FOX8 it's essentially like one doctor writing a prescription for 10 million people.

The drug can reverse opioid overdoses. It's is currently being used by many first responders with success. Guilford County EMS and several local fire, police and sheriff’s departments are using naloxone, also known as Narcan, to respond to the increasing number of heroin overdoses in recent years.

Individuals can currently access naloxone through a prescription from their doctor or through advocacy groups. But this standing order would mean anyone could go to a pharmacist directly and access the medication to have on hand in case a friend or family member overdoses.

Dr. Williams said creating a statewide standing order for naloxone would be the first ever such move by public health in North Carolina.

“We think this is so important because right now drug overdoses are killing more North Carolinians and Americans than guns and automobile accidents. This is the public health crisis of our time,” Dr. Williams told FOX8 Tuesday after presenting to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.

His report to the committee said heroin overdoses increased 565% since 2010 in N.C.

“We greatly appreciate the governor’s support and bipartisan support from the legislature to do something that’s never been done before,” Dr. Williams added. “Clearly one of the impediments for loved ones getting naloxone is they don’t want to go to doctor or don’t have access to a doctor.”

Jeff Pruett is the Chronic Pain Initiative Coordinator with Partnership for Community Care in Greensboro. They partner with many groups, such as Project Lazaraus and Alcohol and Drug Services in High Point, to educate families and help people struggling with addiction.

“We know [naloxone] works. And we know that it gives folks a second chance. And the standing order allowing anyone to go in to the pharmacy and access this medication is just going to make it easier, and I hope get rid of the stigma,” Pruett said. "Maybe if it saves a life, it will help that person realize they want to seek treatment."

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Dr. Williams said N.C. would only be the third state in the U.S. with a standing order like this. Supporters plan to introduce it on the first day of the joint legislative session. "We hope this initiative being so bold will bring light to all of these issues."