AZ mom works to save lives of heroin addicts

Posted at 11:24 PM, May 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 12:18:51-04

Chandler Hamby, 25, overdosed while smoking heroin just a few weeks ago.  His 24-year-old sister Breana Hamby died while waiting for medics to arrive in Peoria.

Their mother Michelle Hamby says it only took the medics about 10 minutes to get there, but her daughter was gone within a matter of minutes.

"She was laying there on the bedroom floor, between her bed and her dresser, the needle still in her hand," said Hamby.

While devastated, Hamby overheard about laws passed in other states where the life-saving drugs Naloxone, which goes by the street name "Narcan", was available to the general public through pharmacies or doctors.

Lawmakers in Arizona were already working on a bill to make it available to first responders. In 2015 the law passed, allowing all first responders and peace officers to carry the drug and administer it to those suffering from a heroin overdose. The law also had a clause protecting first responders from liability or prosecution.

Hamby was a big advocate who wanted to push it even further and make the drug available to anyone who had a loved one suffering from a heroin addiction.

"A family member or friend is usually the first one to come across their loved one overdosing sometimes even before the cops get there," said Hamby.

She strongly feels that if she had been able to administer Narcan to her daughter she may have been able to save her life.

Hamby said she felt discouraged when she did not see House Bill 2355 on the legislative agenda.

"I called and called and called and called senators and begged them to put it on the agenda," said Hamby.

Her efforts paid off. Lawmakers voted at 4:30 in the morning and unanimously passed the bill.

Hamby was present when Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law 10 days ago. She said she cried, but for the first time in years, they were tears of joy.

Her goal is to prevent other families from going through it.

Opponents worry the drug could end up promoting drug use. They also worry about the costs.

While medics have been administering the drug for years, this now means first responder agencies can train many more people, especially police officers and deputies on how to administer the drug, as they are usually the first ones who get to an emergency.

Some departments have cited concerns about the cost of the drug.

Pharmacists ABC15 contacted said they were still waiting on direction from the Pharmacy Review Board on how to go about administering this to their clients.

One pharmacist said costs of the nasal spray version could run from $30-$120, with the injection version costing hundreds of dollars.  Many insurance companies are not covering the costs at this time.

Proponents of the bill are working to make the drug more affordable. The law goes into effect in August.