Earlier this month, SSDPers convened at the Arizona State Capitol to participate in a Legislative Lobby Day for the third consecutive year. Arizona State University chapter leaders Sarah Saucedo and Andre Maestas were there along with Arizona State Policy Intern Trevor Thornburg, and Arizona Campus Coordinator Cameron Oberlin. Also in attendance was Chris Wallis, alumnus of Kent State University’s SSDP Chapter. He is currently working on a special project (information is forthcoming) that brought him to Arizona during Lobby Day.
The focal point of Arizona’s Lobby Day was House Bill 2355. A bill that would allow anyone at risk of experiencing an overdose on opiates access to Naloxone (an opiate antagonist which reverses an opiate overdose). The bill would also allow for family or friends of anyone at risk of experiencing an overdose on opiates access to Naloxone.
The most productive meeting from Lobby Day was with Senator Andrew Sherwood, a Democratic senator in the house of representatives for district 26 in which Sarah and Andre both reside. Senator Sherwood was very welcoming and receptive. Trevor was able to share with Sherwood that he had recently lost a close, lifelong friend to an opiate overdose. Trevor’s friend was only 31 years old at the time of his death and had grown up in Sherwood’s legislative district. Trevor stressed that this overdose, and so many others, could have been possibly prevented had Naloxone been accessible in that situation.
Sarah also informed Sherwood that a Naloxone program could be funded and a federal level as a result of President Obama recently approving millions of dollars of federal money for harm reduction supplies and training. Andre was able to express to Sherwood the importance of the layman’s clause in the bill which allows family and friends of those at risk of experiencing an overdose access to Naloxone. The reason this is so important is that often a person in need of Naloxone is not physically able to administer it to themselves. Andre also expressed the need for quick administration of Naloxone for it to be effective, similar to AED administration for cardiac emergencies. Having Naloxone in a household would dramatically reduce the time it takes to access the medication compared to how it is now where an EMT has to be called to the scene to administer Naloxone. Overall the discussion with Senator Sherwood was a success as he said he will support HB 2355 which is two more voting sessions away from going to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. The relationship built with Senator Sherwood provides SSDP in Arizona with an important ally when it comes to future drug policy reform within the state.
Lobby Day is important for a couple reasons. First, it gives SSDPer’s a cause to rally around and participate in an activity where they really feel that they are making a difference. Lobby Day is also important because it provides a way for SSDP to establish positive relationships and allies with policy makers. This is of paramount importance as SSDP thrives on its ability to take advantage of relationships we have built through our lobbying efforts. There would be no SSDP without the hard work of students across the country and lobby day is one way in which our organization can make huge impacts. So please get involved!