More people die from drug overdoses than from murders or car accidents, but a tough-on-crime drug-war mentality too often precludes treating overdose deaths like the public health crisis they clearly have become. Many if not most of these deaths are preventable if victims receive prompt treatment.
The chance of surviving an overdose, just as is the case with a heart attack, largely depends on how quickly one receives medical treatment. 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 decide not to call for fear of prosecution.
However, in 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott vetoed life saving “Good Samaritan” legislation which would forego a drug prosecution if someone called 911 to report an overdose, stayed with the victim until help came, and then cooperated with authorities. That veto almost certainly cost lives.
We have to be smarter than that. Contact the Governor today to tell him to reverse this bad decision.
Bi-partisan coalition for reform
The following organizations support this proposal: Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texans for Accountable Government (TAG), ACLU of Texas, Austin Justice Coalition, and Just Liberty.
Lots of precedent for ‘Good Samaritan’ law
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted policies to provide limited immunity from arrest or prosecution for minor drug-law violations when people summon help at the scene of an overdose. If it weren’t for Gov. Abbott’s veto, that number would be 21.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, “New Mexico was the first state to pass such a policy and has been joined in recent years by Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.”
Won’t protect drug dealers
Good Samaritan laws do not protect people from arrest for other offenses, such as selling or trafficking drugs, or driving while drugged. These policies protect only the caller and overdose victim from arrest and/or prosecution for simple drug possession, possession of paraphernalia, and/or being under the influence.
For more background, see this detailed fact sheet on the topic from the Network for Public Health Law.
Reach out to Gov. Abbott today and tell him to support HB 73 by Guillen – Texas’ Good Samaritan legislation.