First responders, health professionals and family members who administer overdose-reversing drugs would be shielded from potential lawsuits under a bill filed in Congress.

The bill's supporters say the use of drugs like naloxone _ also known as Narcan _ in an emergency overdose situation shouldn't be deterred by fear of legal action.

The bill is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat; Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat.

The bill is a response to a surge in the number of overdose deaths in the region in recent years.

State health officials said there were 978 unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2013, the last year for which complete statistics were available.

That's a 46 percent increase over the previous year.

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