NY State Assembly Passes 911 Good Samaritan Bill to Curb Escalating Drug and Alcohol Overdose Deaths

June 6, 2011—  On Thursday, the Good Samaritan overdose prevention bill passed the New York State Assembly in a 87 to 51 vote.

Good Samaritan overdose prevention (or “Medical Amnesty”) policies have been enacted in New Mexico, Washington, and at colleges around the country to help prevent overdose deaths.  New Jersey has also adopted a similar policy for underage alcohol use. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths now account for 24% of all unintentional deaths. In the U.S. there were 27,658 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2007, more than double the 11,155 deaths in 1999.

“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.

Republican Senator DeFrancisco is sponsoring an identical bill in the Senate, S4454A. Evan Nison, one of the organizers from 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.”

A study done by Cornell University on the effects of their alcohol-only medical amnesty policy has shown that since the adoption of the policy in 2002, student calls to 911 for help doubled while alcohol use remained the same.  The passage of this policy would place New York among the leading states working to reduce drug overdose fatalities in the country.

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Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society. SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.

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