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Oklahoma governor vetoes bills that would ensure access to overdose-reversing drugs

Narcan, also known as Naloxone is an opiate overdose antidote.
Narcan, also known as Naloxone is an opiate overdose antidote.

Oklahoma state lawmakers unanimously passed two bills ensuring access to opioid antagonists for at-risk communities. But, they joined Gov. Kevin Stitt’s stack of vetoes.

Senate Bills 711 and 712 would have used state funding to pay for overdose reversal drugs — the first providing it to people who were just released from prisons or county jails, and the second to people just released from overdose care at the hospital. They also would create a program to educate these people on signs of overdose and how to administer the medication.

Access to naloxone — or its brand name Narcan — has become a major public health initiative since the onset of the opioid epidemic, and even more so after synthetic fentanyl has been showing up in supplies unexpectedly and causing people to overdose.

"They need some help," said the bill's author, Senate Health and Human Services chairman Paul Rosino. "We want to save their lives just like we would anybody else."

But in an effort to pressure the Senate into taking up his education funding plan, Stitt has been mass vetoing Senate bills, including these.

Like many others, Stitt writing on these vetoes that, "until the people of Oklahoma have a tax cut, until every teacher in the state gets the pay raise they deserve, until parents get a tax credit to send their child to the school of their choice," he will veto any legislation authored by Senators against his education funding plan.

"I hope and pray that no one in Oklahoma dies 'cause of these vetoes. But, you know, I used to tell my children: actions have consequences," Rosino said in response.

The Legislature could vote to override the veto, but it remains unclear whether they will do so.

In 2021, 960 Oklahomans died of a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Catherine Sweeney grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma State University. She has covered local, state and federal government for outlets in Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington, D.C.