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"911 Amensty" for Drug Users In Florida - Response From Sen.Pres. Atwater

Submitted by David Borden on
From: ATWATER.JEFF.WEB [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 12:39 PM To: Gus Kein Subject: RE: "Good Samaritan" & "911 Amnesty" Laws For Drug Users Gus, Thank you for taking the time to forward this along. What sad circumstances! We are three weeks away from finishing our legislative session and our bill filing deadlines have passed quite some time ago. With that said, I will keep this article in mind as similar discussions take place. All the best, jeff From: Gus Kein [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2009 12:47 PM To: ATWATER.JEFF.WEB Subject: "Good Samaritan" & "911 Amnesty" Laws For Drug Users Dear President Atwater: I hope we have such laws as described below in Florida. If we don’t perhaps we should to avoid needless deaths. Thanks for listening! Gus Kein, MA, CFRE 1800 N. Andrews Ave., Apt. 8-D Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 USA Phone: 954-525-9381 Cell: 561-914-1247 Email: [email protected] Drug War Chronicle - world’s leading drug policy newsletter Feature: Legislatures Take Up "Good Samaritan" Overdose Bills in Bid to Reduce Deaths • view • translation Printer Friendly Version Email this Article from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #577, 3/20/09 Last year, in suburban Washington, DC, 19-year-old Alicia Lannes overdosed on heroin. The girl was in her bedroom and text messaging her boyfriend and heroin supplier, Skylar Schnippel, when he realized something was wrong. But when he realized Lannes was in trouble, he didn't call 911 or her parents. Instead, he called some friends and asked them to check up on her. At 4:00am, they peered through her window, saw her unconscious, and called paramedics. Shortly after 5:00am, her father, Greg Lannes, was awakened by paramedics pounding on his front door. "We found my daughter lying next to her bed," Lannes told the Washington Post. "She had passed away. She had gone through a lot in her little life." Dr. Reardon and son Danny Six years earlier, Washington dentist Daniel Reardon went through something similar. His son, Danny, 19, a freshman at the University of Maryland, passed out after a night of drinking. Fraternity members laid him on a sofa, took his pulse, and took turns watching him. But young Reardon quit breathing at some point during the night, and by the time fraternity members called at ambulance at 3:30am, Reardon was brain dead. He died six days later without gaining consciousness. In both cases, people who might have saved the lives of the victims with fast action hesitated to call for help, largely out of fear of legal repercussions. Whether it was using heroin or underage consumption of alcohol, friends as well as the victims themselves faced the possibility of prosecution for drinking or drug use. Yesterday, Daniel Reardon testified before a Maryland General Assembly committee to urge members to pass a bill that might have saved his son's life. The House Judiciary Committee was holding hearings on HB 1273, a Good Samaritan overdose bill, which would protect overdose victims and the people seeking help for them from facing criminal prosecution. Although New Mexico is the only state to have passed such legislation, numerous college and universities have instituted similar policies. "There are about 90 schools across the country that have these medical emergency amnesties," said Stacia Cosner, a University of Maryland senior and member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), which has endorsed the Maryland legislation. "About one third are public; the rest are private, usually small colleges." Unfortunately, the University of Maryland isn't one of them -- yet. "We have been working on this here for a couple of years, and there has been some progress, but there is nothing formally adopted yet," said Cosner. It is working at George Washington University in Washington, said Cosner, citing ongoing research there. "Since they instituted the program, 911 medical emergency calls have gone way up," she said. The movement is spreading beyond the college campus now. This year, besides Maryland, legislatures in at least seven other states -- Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington -- are considering Good Samaritan overdose laws. (The Washington state effort died earlier this month after failing to move out of committee.) There is good reason for such laws. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 22,000 people died of drug overdoses (both licit and illicit) nationwide in 2005, the last year for which statistics are available, making ODs second only to traffic accidents as a cause of death for young people. Only about 15% of fatal overdoses result in immediate death, meaning quick action could save lives. "It should never be a crime to call 911, said Naomi Long, director of the Drug Policy Alliance DC and Maryland Project, which is leading the charge for the bill in Annapolis. "This bill is about saving lives without compromising public safety. In these hard economic times, Maryland should focus resources on saving lives not arresting Good Samaritans." The Good Samaritan bill "is about giving countless Marylanders a second chance at life," said Del. Kris Valderrama, the bill's sponsor. "We should pass laws that send the message that saving lives is our first priority." "We need these laws to protect lives and to help people in confusing situations make the right decision to call for help if necessary," said Amber Langston, SSDP eastern regional outreach director. "People may hesitate to call 911 or not call at all out of fear of punishment, and even a few moments of hesitation can cost someone's life. If the goals of our drug policies are to save lives, then enacting Good Samaritan laws is good drug policy." As a student organization, SSDP is particularly concerned about young people, said Langston. "This is an issue that particularly affects young people, who are generally less experienced and more fearful of retribution," she argued. "We know that people are dying of overdoses, and these are preventable, unnecessary deaths," said DPA's Long. "We need to be creating the kind of situation where people immediately call for help. The bills in Maryland and elsewhere are an attempt to remove the perceived threat of prosecution from people who want to do the right thing, but are in a difficult situation." Whether the Maryland bill passes this year remains to be seen, but the hearings have been an opportunity to open lawmakers' eyes to the problem, said Long. "We have been able to educate lawmakers about how the fear of arrest and punishment makes people hesitate to call 911, we have some really powerful stories, but the bottom line is that the bill still faces an uphill fight," she said. "I think it's great that some state legislatures are trying to catch up with a good harm reduction program," said Hilary McQuie, western director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "People frequently cite the fear of retribution as the main reason they didn't seek help. If these laws can get passed and accepted so they change people's behavior around what happens with an overdose situation, this could really make a difference in people's lives. It could save their lives." But passing a Good Samaritan bill is just the beginning, said McQuie. "There is a lag between changes in the law and changes in 911 calls," she said. "It takes a little time for people to build trust in the system. You also have to educate police and the people around drug users that the law exists, and there is no funding for that. These efforts are wonderful, but they need more resources to be effectively implemented." • email this page <- previous article in this issue | next article in this issue -> Post new comment Your name: ggkein Subject: Comment: * • Allowed HTML tags:

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