BOISE, Idaho (KLIX) – Gov. Brad Little on Thursday signed a bill that allows easier access to a drug that could potentially save the lives of opioid overdose victims.

Sponsored by Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, House Bill 12 expands measures of a law passed in 2015 that eased access to the drug naloxone. According to the governor’s office, the bill gives Idaho one of the broadest naloxone access laws in the U.S.

“My administration is fully committed to fighting the scourge of opioid abuse head on,” Little said in a statement on Thursday. “We look forward to coordinating with all public and private entities to reverse this epidemic.”

In 2017 there were 116 known opioid overdose deaths in Idaho, up from 44 just more than a decade ago, according to information from the governor’s office – a 163 percent increase.

“We have an opioid problem here in Idaho,” Wood said. “While we figure out a way to combat this growing addiction, we need to let our neighbors know that there is help at their fingertips if they have a loved one in need. This could be the first step to helping someone into recovery.”

Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, is co-sponsoring the bill.

“I am honored that this was the first piece of legislation I sponsored as a Senator,” he said. “This is an important first step in addressing the ongoing opioid crisis. Individuals who had no other option in the past will now have access to life saving drug. Sometimes, legislation really can be the difference between life and death.”

Rep. Jake Ellis was invited to the signing ceremony because he has first-hand experience with Naloxone, according to information from the Democratic Caucus. During his time as a first responder, Ellis witnessed more than 50 lives saved by the drug.

“During my time as a first responder, I came to understand the importance of making this drug more accessible,” he said. “When you have to act fast to save a life, drugs like Naloxone are incredibly helpful.

He said families should be given as many tools as possible to make the right decision in a crisis.

“Naxolone will be invaluable to people who know that they must act quickly to save someone,” Ellis said. “There is no reason that we should deny people a second chance at life.”

Gov. Little said he has plans for an executive order on substance abuse, which he likely will address in his State of the State and Budget Address next January. The order will formalize an existing opioid plan, direct future resources to and broaden efforts to combat opioid addition and create non-offender programs for substance abuse.