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Calling 9-1-1 to report an overdose? This bill would protect you from drug charges

Looking down on a hand holding an open bottle of prescription drugs.
Sharyn Morrow
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
The expanded legislation would protect more people reporting overdoses

People need to be able to report drug overdoses, without being afraid of facing drug possession charges themselves.

That's why lawmakers in Lansing are set to expand the current "Good Samaritan" law this week.

Right now, the law only covers people under 21 -- and even then, only if they're reporting an overdose from prescription drugs.

Those initial protections were a response to the death of a teenager in Southwest Michigan last year, who died of an overdose at a New Year’s Eve party.

But if the goal is to save lives, then the law needs to go farther, says Republican State Rep. Al Pscholka.

"The epidemic of opioids is only getting worse,” he says. “And even in my small [Berrien] county, we’re using Narcan three or four times a week to save lives. And we're losing more people to drug overdoses than car accidents.”

Pscholka says it was Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) who pushed for the law to be expanded.

“And I said, ‘Sam, I agree,’ but I don’t think the public was quite ready, or law enforcement was quite ready, to take an extra step and say: all substances, not just prescription drugs.”

But apparently, they were.

“I was [surprised] a little bit…[but] this reaches all demographics,” Pscholka says. “This isn’t just poor people, rich people, middle class. This is everybody. And including not just teenagers, but older folks as well…and I think it is common sense legislation that will save lives.”

There are some exceptions in these bills, however.

“Well I think initially law enforcement had a bit of concern, that maybe we were promoting drug use [with these bills,]” Rep. Pscholka says. “So we put some things in the bill, that if there are other crimes being committed, or if this is part of drug dealing, that’s a whole different scenario. But actually making an emergency phone call for a medical procedure to save a life – that’s what really the standard is here.”

The state Senate and House are expected to pass the bills later this week. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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