Thursday, August 2, 2012

911 Good Samaritan Law

Read the PDF sent to me by the Harm Reduction Coalition. Basically,
if you call 911 because some one has over dose. They will no longer
be subject to arrest.

911 Good Samaritan Laws:
Preventing Overdose
Deaths,Saving Lives

Overdose Deaths: A Growing National Epidemic, Overdoses nationwide more 
than doubled between 2000 and 2007. 

1 In 2007 (the latest year data is available), 
more than 
27,000 people people 

died from  accidental drug overdose, resulting 
in more deaths than either 

or homicide. 

2 Significant federal  funding 
is directed toward preventing HIV/AIDS and 

but virtually no federal 
dollars are designated for overdose prevention. 

3 Overdose 
deaths are almost as 
common as car 
crash fatalities. Overdose is second 

only to 
motor vehicle 
as a leading cause of injury relate 
death in the U.S. 

Legal prescription opiates, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, 
are driving the increase in 

overdose deaths nationally. Since 2002, prescription opiate 
overdose deaths have 

outnumbered both heroin and cocaine overdose deaths. 

Americans are the hardest hit by the overdose crisis. More people aged 

35 to 54 died of 
drug overdose than in motor-vehicle accidents.

in sixteen states, 
overdose leads car crashes. 

7 Considering how 
often the media reports on a 
fatality in a traffic 
accident, it is 

alarming that overdose is occurring 
at similarly 
high rates. 
Nationally, more 

overdose deaths are caused by prescription drugs 
than all illegal drugs  combined. 

8 Additionally, drug overdose is the number two injury-related killer among young 
adults ages 15-34. 

9 The tragedy is that many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Good Samaritan 911 Laws: A Practical Solution 
That Can Save Lives

The chance of surviving an overdose, like that of surviving a heart attack, depends greatly 
on how fast one receives medical assistance. Witnesses to heart attacks rarely think twice 
about calling 911, but witnesses to an overdose often hesitate to call for help or, in many 
cases, simply don’t make the call. The most common reason people cite for not calling 911 is
fear of police involvement. People using drugs illegally often fear arrest, even in cases where
they need professional medical assistance for a friend or family member. The best way to
encourage overdose witnesses to seek medical help is to exempt them from criminal prosecution,
an approach often referred to as 911 Good Samaritan immunity laws.

Risk of criminal prosecution or civil litigation can 
deter medical professionals, drug 

users and 
bystanders from aiding overdose victims. Well crafted 
legislation can 

provide simple protections 
to alleviate these fears, improve emergency 

responses, and save lives.

Multiple studies show that most deaths actually occur one to three hours after the victim has 
initially ingested or injected drugs. 11 The time that elapses before an overdose becomes a 
fatality presents a vital opportunity to intervene and seek medical help.

However, “…It has been estimated that only between 10 percent and 56 percent of individuals
who witness a drug overdose call for emergency medical services, with most of those doing so
only after other attempts to revive the overdose victim (e.g., inflicting pain or applying ice) have
proved unsuccessful.”  12 Furthermore, severe penalties for possession and use of illicit drugs,
including state laws that impose criminal

Drug Policy Alliance | 131 West 33
rd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10001 | 212.613.8020 voice | 212.613.8021 fax

charges on individuals who provide drugs to someone who subsequently dies of an overdose, 
only intensify the fear that prevents many witnesses from seeking emergency medical help.
Good Samaritan immunity laws provide protection from prosecution for witnesses who call 911.
Laws encouraging overdose witnesses and victims to seek medical attention may also be
accompanied by training for law enforcement, EMS and other emergency and public safety
personnel. Such legislation does not protect people from arrest for other offenses, such as
selling or trafficking drugs.

This policy protects only the caller and overdose victim from arrest and prosecution for simple
drug possession, possession of paraphernalia, and/or being under the influence.

The policy prioritizes saving lives over arrests for 

A Growing National Movement to Prevent 
Overdose Fatalities In State Legislatures:

In 2007, New Mexico was the first state in the nation to pass 911 Good Samaritan legislation. 
In 2010, Washington State enacted the second such law, passing 911 Good Samaritan by
large margins in both the Senate and House. In 2011,

New York and Connecticut passed such legislation. New York’s law is unique in that it provides
protection from not just prosecution, but also from arrest. Most recently,

in 2012, Illinois and Florida became the fifth and sixth states to enact a 911 Good Samaritan law.
Other states that have recently considered 911 Good Samaritan legislation include: California,
Hawaii,  Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska and Rhode Island.

In 2010, legislation was passed by the legislature in California. Unfortunately, the bill was
vetoed, but advocates will continue their efforts in the coming years.

The US Conference of Mayors:

In 2008, the United States Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution supporting 
911 Good Samaritan policies that could save thousands of lives by encouraging medical
intervention for drug overdoses before they become fatal.

On College Campuses:

Today, 911 Good Samaritan policies are in effect on over 90 college campu throughout the county.

CDC WONDER Compressed Mortality File, ICD-10 Groups:


2    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting 
System (WISQARS), “20 Leading Causes of Death, United States, 2006, All Races, Both Sexes”


CDC WONDER Compressed Mortality File, ICD-9 Groups:


Paulozzi, LJ, Budnitz, DS, Xi, Y. Increasing deaths from opioid analgesics in the United States. 
Pharmaco epidemiol Drug Safety 2006; 15: 618-627.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER – Compressed Mortality – Underlying Cause of Death, 
ICD-10 codes X40-44

States with more overdose deaths than car crash deaths in 2006 are: Massachusetts, 
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Oregon andWashington.
Source: Stobbe M, “CDC: Drug deaths outpacen crashes in more states,”
The Associated Press, September 30, 2009

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “QuickStats: Motor-Vehicle Traffic
and Poisoning Death Rates, by Age - United States, 2005-2006,” July 17, 2009, 58(27); 753

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centersfor Disease Control and 
Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury 
Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “20 Leading Causes of
Death, United States, 2006, All Races, Both Sexes”

10 Strang, J. Kelleher, M. Best, D. Mayet, S. Manning, V. “Preventing opiate overdose 
deaths with emergency naloxone: medico-legal consideration of new potential
providers and contexts.” Submitted to BritishMedical Journal 3 (16 September 2005).

11 Davidson, Peter J. et al. “Witnessing heroin-related overdoses: the experiences of 
young injectors in San Francisco,” Addiction 97 (December 2002): 1511.

12 Tracy, Melissa, et. al. “Circumstances of witnessed drug overdose in New York City: 
implications for intervention,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 79 (2005): 181-182.

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