SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – A bill to create a two-year pilot program for some counties to distribute higher doses of naloxone nasal spray heads to the Senate floor for a second reading.

Under the proposal, the Department of Human Services would provide eight-milligram naloxone nasal spray kits to public health departments and other providers helping people struggling with substance abuse in Sangamon, DuPage, Cook, St. Clair, and Winnebago counties. 

“Without this opportunity, they might lose their lives,” State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview), the bill’s sponsor, said. “And every time a life is lost, a family is impacted, friends are impacted, and so this is just another tool in the toolbox we can do to fight this disease.”

Naloxone is a medicine used to help reverse an opioid-related overdose. According to the CDC, the drug helped save about 50,000 lives in 2019.

Places across the state have naloxone nasal sprays that contain four milligrams of the medication. Fine said that she’s heard from medical providers who say that that dosage is not enough to reverse an overdose.

“In order to save lives, they need more of these smaller containers, so what this pilot program does is it allows to almost double the size of what that container is,” Fine said.

The bill cites studies that have shown people who used a four-milligram naloxone spray to reverse an overdose needed a second dose or more.

The Illinois Association for Behavioral Health supports the bill. The association’s CEO, Jud Deloss, said while they are focused on preventing people from reaching the point of an overdose, they believe the proposal is important.

“The studies show that there is a need for a greater dosage amount, or at least administering more than one four milligrams,” Deloss said. “So we support the idea of having that as a safety net, to prevent those overdose deaths.”

Deaths from opioids have been on the rise over the past couple of years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2020, more than 68,000 opioid-involved overdose deaths were reported. In 2021, that number jumped to more than 80,000. This rise, along with the increased availability of more powerful drugs like fentanyl, as well as fentanyl-related deaths, is also why supporters of the bill, including the Illinois Pharmacists Association, say this bill is needed.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic did not have a diminishing effect on substance abuse and overdose incidents,” the Illinois Pharmacists Association said in a statement to WCIA. “In fact, we are seeing more cases of abuse and fentanyl-related overdoses. The current 4mg naloxone kits may not be enough to reverse some of the stronger derivatives of synthetic fentanyl. SB1402 creates a pilot program to study the impact of an 8mg naloxone kit. Our communities deserve to have access to every weapon to combat fentanyl overdoses.”

Deloss agrees.

“I think [the bill] ties together very clearly that in order to address that heightened and more deadly substance, you need to have the increased milligrams,” Deloss said.

The proposal would also require Human Services to put together a data collection program on the number of kits people use for every overdose within the two-year period. They also have to collect data on the number of people who survive an overdose after receiving the spray as well as the number of people who died after using it.

If it passes, the bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.