Friday, June 17, 2011

Treatment Solutions Network Articles: New York’s Good Samaritan Law

Treatment Solutions Network Articles: New York’s Good Samaritan Law

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New York’s Good Samaritan Law

Posted: 17 Jun 2011 02:53 PM PDT

The state of New York is taking steps to reduce the number of drug and alcohol overdoses among its citizens. The Good Samaritan bill protects 911 callers from being charged with drug possession.

Preventing Drug Overdoses

Drug overdose deaths account for 24% of all unintentional deaths in the country, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the numbers keep rising. Many of these overdoses are preventable, if someone who witnesses the overdose calls for help. However, there is often a real fear among bystanders who see that someone needs help, because they are doing drugs too and don’t want to get caught. Unfortunately, too many people stand by and watch helplessly as a friend overdoses and dies, because they are too afraid of repercussions for themselves if they call for help.

New York’s Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is working to get this bill passed. Dr. Jeffery Reynolds, Executive Director, said, “The ability to send the message to young people that if you call for help, you’re not going to be prosecuted is absolutely critical.” (1)

The bill has passed the New York Assembly, and supporters are waiting for it to be passed in the Senate. "Most accidental drug or alcohol overdose deaths are preventable if emergency services are contacted immediately," said Assembly Health Committee chair Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of the bill.  "The number one reason people don't call for emergency services in the event of an overdose is fear of getting arrested. This bill would encourage people who witness an overdose, or suffer one, to call 911 by assuring them they will not be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for drug or paraphernalia possession or under-age alcohol possession.  It would not protect against arrest, charge, or prosecution for other offenses, such as drug trafficking," he said. (2)

Other States Working on Amnesty Laws

Other states have been working on similar measures.  Medical Amnesty policies have been put in place in New Mexico, Washington, New Jersey and on some college campuses. Researchers from Cornell University found that since their alcohol medical amnesty policy was enacted, calls for help doubled while alcohol use stayed the same. Based on the benefits seen so far, many people see the Good Samaritan law and others like it as a positive thing.

Evan Nison, of the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy working to pass this bill said, "Threatening students who urgently need medical assistance with arrest and prosecution can be, and often times is, a death sentence. As college students, this affects us directly. Support in the legislature is there to pass this bill.  We challenge Senate leadership to do everything in their power to make sure this life-saving legislation gets to the Governor's desk." (2)


(1) NY bill would protect 911 caller at drug overdose

(2) Assembly passes 911 'Good Samaritan' bill

Parents push for law to prevent drug overdose deaths

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