Opioid abuse, in the form of prescription painkillers and heroin, has contributed to a growing number of Iowa emergency room visits and overdose deaths in the past decade. The emergency entrance of St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids is shown January 8. Credit: Lauren Mills/IowaWatch

Iowa is one of seven states that have not expanded access to a life-saving drug called naloxone that can reverse overdoses of heroin and certain pain medications. Previous attempts failed in part due to concerns about consequences to law enforcement.

“We need the access to naloxone broadened in the state of Iowa. Right now only ERs and EMS have it and carry it. And the people that need it don’t have it in their hands, which would be family and friends of folks that are that have substance use disorder. It needs to be out in the community,” said Kim Brown, of Davenport.

Brown lost her son Andy Lamp to an overdose in 2011 and has advocated legislation for broader naloxone access. She said efforts to expand naloxone have failed in part due to a lack of understanding and stigma surrounding substance use disorders.

However, Steven Lukan, director of the Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, voiced concerns that broader access could have unintended consequences.

“It gives me a little pause that perhaps somebody is just going to just keep this in their medicine cabinet and think, ‘Well, I’m safe now, I can just keep doing the drugs and living the lifestyle,’” Lukan said.

“We want to try to make sure people are getting help and getting into treatment. It’s a very difficult drug to overcome. So we want to make sure we are working on the prevention side as well. Ideally people are never starting this type of behavior,” he said.

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