Indiana mom pushes lawmakers to approve legislation expanding access to Narcan

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INDIANAPOLIS (April 7, 2015) - Justin Phillips often clings onto her favorite picture. It’s the one of her son Aaron. He’s smiling.

It reminds her of the once agile quarterback who cared about everyone, not the 20-year-old who died overdosing on heroin.

“You know, I don’t exactly know,” Phillips said. “I guess you have a choice. Hide it or do something with it.”

Phillips decided to not hide in grief.

She created the nonprofit Overdose Lifeline to raise money to buy naloxone, the drug known as Narcan, for Indiana first responders. Now she wants to give access to the drug that quickly reverses the effects of an overdose to every parent, friend and support group of heroin addicts statewide.

“So at the time my goal was, ‘Don’t use, don’t use, don’t use Aaron.’ If I would have known that my words, my actions in a split second may not change anything, but if I said to him, ‘If you choose to use, will you let me know so I can save your life?’”

State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) authored the bill to expand the drug’s availability to anyone who wants it, potentially making it as simple as buying the drug at a pharmacy.

The legislation would also track how much is being sold.

“We want to know how widespread of a problem we really have,” he said. “What the tracking hopefully will do is allow us to get inside and offer treatment to those that want treatment.”

The cost and demand of Narcan is increasing nationwide.

Phillips said it’s anywhere between $35 and $50 a dose.

“Unfortunately the company that manufactures doubled its price in the last year because of the demand,” she said.

Critics say it encourages prolonged drug use.

But advocates of this push say the first task is saving lives.

“There’s a stigma attached already with heroin,” Phillips said. “There’s a stigma attached as a parent of a child. It’s hard for parents to admit somehow maybe we did something wrong as a parent. That’s just the way we’re going to think.”

Several changes have already been made to the bill, and more could be coming. Lawmakers are down to weeks to pass through legislation and get it to the governor before the end of the session.

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