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Utah lawmakers tackle heroin

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death from a suspected heroin overdose has shined a light on a problem. Heroin has become ever more affordable and accessible and more and more young people in Utah are getting hooked.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death from a suspected heroin overdose has shined a light on a problem.

Heroin has become ever more affordable and accessible and more and more young people in Utah are getting hooked.

Now there are new efforts to save lives.

Zach Baker won't forget the day he arrived at a friend's house to find her nearly dead from an overdose.

“It was really scary because she was completely blue, not breathing on her own, had the death rattle coming out of her,” he said. “I was you know yelling at people, ‘what is going on here, what happened, why is no one calling 911?’ and they said ‘we may have warrants,’ ‘we're not sure,’ we're just afraid ourselves, and I said ‘well this has got to change’.”

Baker is now the man behind a new proposal at the capitol that would give some immunity to those reporting a drug overdose.

“If someone OD’s and they’re scared, there’s a lot of hesitation in those life-saving moments,” he said.

The death this week of a famed-actor has pushed the new reality of heroin addiction into the spotlight.

“It's a dramatic change,” said Joel Millard, Executive Director of Project Reality. Millard said heroin addiction isn’t what it used to be.

“It was all W 2nd South, it was very controlled by the industry,” said Millard.

Now doctors are cracking down on pain killer prescriptions and addicts are turning to what's available that numbs the pain.

“The route to it is usually pain medication and then when they can't afford pain medication they switch to heroin and that's less expensive,” said Millard.

With more users come more overdoses. Now a second proposal in the legislature could save lives.

It's called Naloxone, a drug that’s highly successful in reversing heroin overdoses before paramedics even arrive. Right now in Utah it's only available by prescription. Baker wants anybody to be able to get it with a pharmacist's approval.

“A pharmacist can hand this out if these people meet these circumstances,” said Baker.

Baker's friend did survive. She was on life support for two days afterwards.

The Good Samaritan bill, that would allow people to report a drug overdose without fear of prosecution, passed the House unanimously last week and now heads to the Senate.

The Naloxone proposal still needs to be introduced.

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