The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill intended to give legal immunity to people who administer a drug that can stop an opioid overdose. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Legislators spoke of the toll that addiction to heroin and other opiates have taken in Connecticut and described the proposal as a tool that could save lives by making people more willing to help someone experiencing an overdose.

The drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, can reverse an opioid overdose. Experts say naloxone can’t be abused itself.

Two years ago, legislators changed state law to allow health care providers to prescribe naloxone to people who might be able to prevent an overdose, not just drug users themselves.

But in testimony supporting this year’s bill, Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Patricia Rehmer said people remain afraid of being involved when someone else overdoses. “People still stand by when a companion dies from an overdose when timely intervention could have saved them,” she said.

On average, one person dies of a drug overdose every day in Connecticut, and overdose is now the leading cause of death among males aged 18 to 25, Rehmer said.

The bill passed Thursday covers people who administer an opioid antagonist like naloxone to someone experiencing an opioid-related overdose, but does not cover health care professionals acting in the ordinary course of their employment. If the person administering naloxone acts with reasonable care, he or she would not be liable for civil damages or subject to criminal prosecution in connection with the naloxone administration.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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