New Jersey Good Samaritan Overdose Bill Passes

A bill designed to reduce drug overdose deaths by providing some legal protection to people who witness them and summon medical assistance has been approved by the state legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. Chris Christie (R). The bill passed the Senate Monday on a 21-10 vote; it had cleared the Assembly back in May.

fatal drug overdose (wikimedia.org)
The bill, Assembly Bill 578, also known as the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, would provide limited legal protection against drug possession charges for people who witness an overdose and call 911. It is aimed at reducing drug overdose deaths by reducing the fear of arrest for those might call for assistance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death, replacing automobile accidents. More than 27,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2007, most of them from prescription opiates, either by themselves or in combination with other drugs, including alcohol.

Many drug overdose deaths occur in the presence of others and take hours to occur, meaning that there is time and opportunity to call for help. But strict enforcement of drug possession laws against would-be Samaritans discourages some from making that call.

Advocates are applauding the passage of the life-saving bill.

"Calling 911 should never be a crime. Our current policies focus on punishment and drive people into the shadows and away from help," said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Saving lives should always take priority over punishing behavior.  A Good Samaritan law will encourage people to get help."

"When a life is on the line we can ill afford to waste time weighing the consequences of calling 911 or deciding whether or not to be truthful about what substance was used to overdose," said Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex). "By narrowly eliminating the criminal consequences one might face after calling 911 to report an overdose, I hope to diminish any hesitation one might have about doing the right thing."

"I and my family are so grateful to the senate for passing this life-saving legislation," said Patty DiRenzo, whose son Salvatore died of an overdose at age 27. "We, and the other families who have lost loved ones to overdose, will be advocating with Gov. Christie to urge him to sign this bill. It's extremely important that we prevent future overdose deaths and spare other families the grief that mine has endured."

If Gov. Christie signs the bill into law, New Jersey will become the ninth state to enact a Good Samaritan law. The others are Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. Similar legislation is pending in several other states.

Trenton, NJ
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Any idea when Gov. Christie

Any idea when Gov. Christie is expected to sign the bill?

Legalize!

The real good Samaritan bill will be the one that legalizes drugs for once and for all.

Legalize!

The real good Samaritan bill will be the one that legalizes drugs for once and for all.

legalize, less overdose, et al

You won't have to worry as much if "drugs" were legalized.  Safety regulations would be in place.  Even more important is taking the illegal markets astronomical profit margins away from the murderous cartels, the "lily white front" launderers, the rotten multinational goldman sachs type banks, the police/prison complex, etc.  Most important of all the most effective too to gain market share by illegal commodity and service providers, i.e. violence, torture and death, will be extinct. Also, Long term addicts whose only alternative in the current drug war is high cost maintenance, or suicide by overdose or other means.  It has been proven that addicts can lead contributive and productive lives if they are legally maintained, which means low cost for the addict.  They have no longer to spend their whole day begging, selling their bodies for sex, stealing, etc to get the high amount of money to keep them from going into a painful withdrawal or all too often deadly overdose.  The best audio file I have heard is Jim Geirach(sp?)on the Burt Cohen radio show(see archives)a former drug prosecutor, now with L.E.A.P(law enforcement against prohibition), about why drugs should be legalized and why legal medically monitored(for hard drugs, not cannabis) maintenance is much better than leaving the addict to the torturous jungle; why crime would plummet surrounding the sale of drugs if legalized regulated and taxed, etc.  This war on drugs is just part of the evil of what america has become: a bloody, exploitive, imperialist empire.  Our founders of this former US republic, must be rolling in their graves.

 

dahszil

male

usa

good samaritan bill

This bill is not about legalizing drugs, it is about saving lives. Governor Christie needs to stop wasting precious time and lives waiting for additional information; the time to act is now. I watched the video where he talked about not wanting to let drug dealers off the hook if they call for help. Wake up Governor Christie!! These people are not typically using their drugs with their dealers, they are using them in their homes, in cars. at parties and friends houses. Yes maybe there will be a dealer or two who cannot be prosecuted at that particular time but really who cares, they are obviously not being prosecuted anyway if they are still out there dealing. The issue is to save a life by allowing someone to call for help. It is a simple concept that ignorant people like to turn in to a debate of right or wrong. Personally I would be happy to have anyone walk away without prosecution if it could prevent these useless deaths. The dealers will still be around with or without the bill; the users however may only have that one moment left for someone to choose to save their lives.

Some of the most violent

Some of the most violent gangs in the world smoke pot on a daily basis. Mary J.

treatment

I've been in the field of drug and alcohol prevention and treatment since the 1960's. This is progress! ramo

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