Drug Policy Alliance

"Good Samaritan" Laws that Protect People who Call 911 For Overdose-Related Medical Emergencies Spread


Governing magazine reports:

Illinois, Colorado and Florida this year have passed legislation that gives legal immunity to people who call 911 to report a companion's drug overdose. The intent is to curb the number of deaths due to drug overdoses, which have soared nationally in recent years.

The legislation – widely referred to as the "911 Good Samaritan" law – is designed to eliminate legal concerns that may prevent people from seeking proper medical treatment. Under the laws, both the person calling 911 as well as a companion in need of medical treatment are granted immunity.

In 2007, New Mexico was the first state to pass a 911 Good Samaritan law. Since then New York, Washington, Connecticut have passed similar laws, in addition to the three states that took action this year…..

Supporters of the legislation say in order for it to be effective, people need to be aware that the immunity provisions exist. Yet none of the Good Samaritan Laws have a public education component. "One of the reasons these laws pass without a great deal of time and back and forth is that they generally do not have any appropriation or fund requirement attached to them," [Meghan] Ralston [of the Drug Policy Alliance] said, "Money would need to be appropriated for public education."

DPA is working on an education campaign to inform people in drug rehabilitation programs, recently released prison inmates, and others in high-risk demographics of the new laws. 

I blogged in October 2010 about then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's shameful veto of such a bill, and in July 2010 about the general usefulness of such laws.

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  1. Is Obama going to be cracking down on 9-1-1 call centers that do not send out SWAT teams to shoot the dogs of those that call in overdoses?

    1. Need you even ask?

  2. Drug users have been so dehumanized that I am seriously surprised that such legislation exists.

    This treats them like, well, people.

    1. But puts such a strain on the healthcare system…

    2. It also puts them on the list for later “We’re bored” raids.

  3. We had this system in college for drinking. If you called the campus EMTs (premed students usually) then the campus po po would ignore any underage drinking. This was on top of no entry unless underage drinking was seen leaving a dorm room rules and two on campus bars that served barely above cost beer with lax drinking age enforcement. Surprisingly nobody has ever died of alcohol poisoning on campus and drunk driving was rare.

    1. Surprisingly to whom?

      1. /sarcasm

        But for a serious answer, a lot of people apparently because we still have our retarded drinking age and many schools, especially state ones, have gone full dry even for those of legal age.

        1. I know. Its amazing how well “act responsibly and we’ll leave you alone” works to make the vast majority, like, act responsibly.

          When I was in college, that was the default cop response to college parties. “If we get called to come back here, we’ll check IDs.” Once followed with “This is the second time I’ve been out here. If I get called again tonight, those speakers are going home with me.”

    2. That’s a swell way to encourage binge drinking. If you all just have one beer you’re liable to be arrested, while if one of you gets alky poisoned you’re all off scot-free.

      Also, WTF does it have to do with drunk driving?

      1. What? You were free to drink as little as you wanted as long as your party didn’t extend out of your room. When somebody needed help nobody was afraid to help them. And if you can’t see the connection between a permissive policy towards on campus drinking up to the point of having bars on campus and preventing drunk driving I don’t know what to tell you.

        What encourages binge drinking and drunk driving is alcohol prohibition for adults of a certain age that encourages them to “pregame” excessively before shipping of campus in a car.

  4. I thought governments wanted to save money on healthcare? Letting these people die would certainly do that.

  5. I try to think of what kind of fucked up mental process you’d have to go through to veto one of these bills.

    The best I can summon is “Drugs are bad, Mmmkay?” from South Park. I really can’t think of anything more sophisticated than that.

    1. If a scenario exists where someone can be found by authorities to have been using drugs, and is immune from prosecution, then it sends the message that drugs are OK.
      This is especially troubling when a person has overdosed. That person has not only disobeyed the law, but is facing a real life consequences of why drugs are illegal in the first place.
      To go through that experience and not be then put into prison? How can you justify that? You’re telling them drugs are OK! You can’t do that!
      And as for the person who is with them, well now we’ve got a conspiracy! And you’re letting them get off free!
      This refuse could be removed from the street!
      What kind of monster are you!
      *spittle flying*
      These people are drug users!
      They’re not even human!
      They should be executed, not given immunity!

  6. “911. What SEEMS TO BE your emergency?”

    “My friend SEEMS TO BE having a heart attack!”

  7. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make drugs legal?

    LOL – I even crack myself up.

  8. I thought the libertarian line was that people should be free to do as they wish as long as they accept the noncoercive consequences of their actions. Overdosing on drugs is a very foreseeable result of drug use, so I don’t see why the govt should be bending over backwards to prevent that outcome.

    1. Refraining from locking them into a cage is not the same as “bending over backwards”.

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