Warwick, RI — The Senate approved a bill reinstating the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act (2016-S 2002) today, introduced by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick).
Identical legislation (2016-H 7003) submitted by Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) will be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the rise of the House in Room 101, according to a release from the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau.
The Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act of 2016 would exempt from liability any person who administers an opioid antagonist to another person to prevent a drug overdose. It would further provide immunity from certain drug charges and for related violations of probation and/or parole for those persons who in good faith, seek medical assistance for a person experiencing a drug overdose.
The bill, which is backed by public health advocates as a tool to combat the region’s opioid overdose epidemic, is meant to remove barriers that might stand in the way of someone calling 911 to help an overdosing person.
The original law lapsed in July 2015 after the House and Senate failed to reconcile their versions of the bill extending the measure during the 2015 General Assembly session, according to a RINPR report.
“First and foremost, we’re concerned with saving lives. If someone knows that calling 911 is probably going to result in their going to jail, they’re going to be very hesitant to do it. Nobody benefits from that situation,” said McCaffrey, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The enforcement of drug laws matters, but for real public safety, saving lives has to come first. No one should be afraid to make a phone call to save a life.”
According to Maria Montanaro, director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, Rhode Island had more opioid deaths per capita last year than any state in the country.
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