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Medical Amnesty Bill Would Offer Immunity in Drug Overdose Cases

A bill approved by the Georgia Legislature would offer immunity to people who seek help from someone who overdoses on drugs. It also would let first responders carry medicines to treat common overdoses.

A bill approved by the Georgia Legislature would offer immunity to people who seek help from someone who overdoses on drugs. File|Patch
A bill approved by the Georgia Legislature would offer immunity to people who seek help from someone who overdoses on drugs. File|Patch

People who seek help for someone overdosing on drugs would be immune from arrest under legislation now awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature to become law.

The mothers of overdose victims have been at the Georgia Capitol for weeks as lawmakers have crafted the legislation, reports the Athens Banner-Herald, holding photos of their children and signs pleading for passage of what’s called the Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law.

In addition to the immunity from arrest, the bill would also authorize police and other first responders to carry medicines that generally overcome common overdoses.

The Georgia House on Tuesday agreed to the Senate changes to House Bill 965, sending the bill to the governor’s desk for his signature into law or veto.

Tanya Smith, a Holly Springs police lieutenant and mother, said she has been an advocate for the bill since her 20-year-old daughter overdosed on heroin, reports The Red and Black.

“The people she was with were too afraid to call 911,” Smith said. “So they elected to let her die and dump her body the next morning.”

Smith said the bill would also make a life-saving drug called naloxone more readily available. Naloxone is used to combat drug overdoses, and was first introduced in hospitals when patients were given too much anesthesia and showed symptoms of overdose.

“I saw it work in my own daughter in 2012 the first time she overdosed on heroin,” Smith said. “When I saw her I thought she was dead. And in my work...I’ve seen a lot of dead people. But I saw her and thought ‘this is it, I’m saying goodbye to my daughter.’ But then they gave her naloxone and she just sat right up. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life.”

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, there has been a steady increase in the number of drug overdose deaths in the state.

In 2008, there were 638 total drug overdose deaths in the state. In 2011 there were 664, and by 2012 there were 686. In 2012, 171 of those who died were between the ages of 15 and 34. 616 of those overdose deaths were deemed “accidental.”

Green Life March 20, 2014 at 01:13 PM
“Immunity for people who seek help FROM someone who overdoses on drugs”? Did anyone bother to proof-read this article before posting it? To add to the confusion, there is no explanation provided why someone reporting an overdose would need immunity...in the second paragraph where it would have made a difference.
nybelleinga March 20, 2014 at 10:02 PM
All paramedic units carry narcan. This is nothing earth shattering. Would any politicians care to work on a bill that has actual value? Please. This is a wast of time and oxygen.
Green Life March 21, 2014 at 01:24 PM
There are other "first responders" besides paramedics. It also appears that someone calling for help for an overdosed person would not be investigated or charged in connection with the overdose. You can't get the naloxone if you're in a coma and no one will call help for you.
stephen m george jr mpa March 23, 2014 at 07:09 PM
I definitely lean toward the logical rational intent and merciful spirit of this proposed law. I have a close friend who's 18 year old daughter overdosed, and died, on heroin several years ago. Everyone at the motel room left her to die ...except for one girl who called 911 and stayed with her. Subsequently, she was arrested and her probation revoked, even though she was the only one to do the right thing at the critical moment. Hence, the non-sanction legal element makes sense to me.
nybelleinga April 22, 2014 at 07:29 AM
That's the problem. We are making emotional decisions that have little value. Having practiced ED Trauma nursing for the majority of my life, administering more narcan than I can count, I can tell you for sure that the problem will not be solved by having everyone carry around reversal agents. We have to solve the drug problem.

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