Senate, House move to reinstate Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act
STATE HOUSE — Both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly are working to reinstate the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act, which expired last year.
The Senate today approved the bill (2016-S 2002) 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 on Tuesday at the rise of the House in Room 101.
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.
“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 Senator 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.”
Representative Craven echoed that sentiment, saying, “Saving a life is much more important than a drug arrest. Ultimately, nothing should ever discourage someone from trying to provide assistance to someone who is dying.”
On hand for the Senate vote was former Sen. Rhoda Perry, who sponsored the original law in 2012.
“This law has a lot of personal meaning for me,” said Senator Perry. “I am grateful that the legislature is taking quick action to address an epidemic by reinstating a law that will save many lives.”
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.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903