U.S. Congressman Robert Dold’s (IL-10) bipartisan legislation Lali’s Law today was unanimously approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill will now head to the House Floor for a vote on passage. Lali’s Law will increase access to the life-saving antidote naloxone throughout the United States. Lali’s Law is named after Alex Laliberte, a Buffalo Grove, Ill. resident and Stevenson High School graduate, who passed away seven years ago from a drug overdose.
“Since we introduced Lali’s Law in February, I’ve been sharing Alex’s story with everybody in Congress, and everyone I’ve talked to recognizes that we must do more to prevent a repeat of this tragedy,” Rep. Dold said. “Getting this bipartisan bill passed unanimously by the committee is a major step toward ensuring that Alex’s lasting legacy includes helping others get a second chance at recovery and saving their families from heartbreak. I’m hopeful that Congress can put aside partisan differences and take action as soon as possible to save lives by passing Lali’s Law.”
Laliberte played sports at Stevenson High School, did well in school and cared about his friends and family, but during his sophomore year of college he began being hospitalized for a mysterious illness. Unknown to his family and doctors, Laliberte had an addiction to prescription drugs and was being hospitalized for his withdrawal. He would stay in the hospital until his symptoms subsided only to leave the hospital and repeat the cycle. Laliberte continued this pattern until he died of an opioid/benzodiazepine overdose a few days before his final exams.
Laliberte’s family, who has since founded substance use and overdose awareness and advocacy organization Live4Lali, partnered with Rep. Dold to introduce Lali’s Law. Chelsea Laliberte, Laliberte’s sister and Live4Lali Executive Director, applauded the progress.
“Alex was a beautiful person with the highest hopes for a productive future. Our lack of education on opioids and harm reduction majorly contributed to his early death. If we had known about naloxone and if it were available then, Alex and thousands of others may still be here for another chance at recovery,” Chelsea Laliberte said. “It’s simple – no one deserves to die from something so preventable as a drug overdose. Knowledge, availability and access is critical. Since Congressman Dold walked into our office to get trained, he has been a champion for this cause. We couldn’t be prouder to partner with such a knowledgable advocate.”
Between 2001 and 2014, there was a three-fold increase in prescription drug overdoses and a six-fold increase in heroin overdoses in the United States. Heroin now takes a life every three days in Chicago’s collar counties and takes more than one life every day in Cook County. Naloxone, however, has proven to be hugely successful as a life-saving antidote. When used, naloxone helps restore breathing that has been stopped by an overdose. In Lake County, Ill., 74 lives have been saved with naloxone since a new program developed by the Lake County Opioid Initiative was introduced equipping first responders with the overdose antidote. With increased access, the World Health Organization predicts naloxone could save another 20,000 lives every year.
“In a little over a year, naloxone has been used by Lake County law enforcement 74 times to save an overdose victim,” Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said. “The bottom line is that this product saves lives. The more available it is, the more lives will be saved. The only way to overcome this epidemic is to help ensure that those that struggle with addiction are provided access to quality treatment.”
Lali’s Law creates a grant program that will help states increase access to naloxone. The primary purpose of the grant is to fund state programs that allow pharmacists to distribute naloxone without a prescription. Many states use these programs to allow local law enforcement officers to carry and use naloxone, similar to the Lake County, Ill. program. The bill has significant bipartisan support and was introduced with the help of Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5).
In 2015, the Illinois General Assembly passed a provision also named Lali’s Law in memory of Alex Laliberte. The state bill built upon Illinois’s existing naloxone access law to explicitly authorize trained pharmacists to prescribe anti-overdose drugs to users and family members of those at risk of a fatal overdose. Any layperson over the age of 18 can now be trained to administer and carry naloxone. The bill also provided criminal immunity for healthcare professionals who prescribe naloxone and improved first responder access to naloxone. The intent of the federal Lali’s Law is to give Illinois officials, as well as public health officials in other states, the opportunity to use federal grants to fund changes authorized as part of the state-level Lali’s Law and similar legislation passed elsewhere in the country that will increase access to naloxone.
Rep. Dold is a co-chair of the Suburban Anti-Heroin Task Force and also member of the Congressional Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.