House Bill 363, the “Good Samaritan” bill, should be put on the front burner when Ohio lawmakers return to work. Approving it would provide some level of protection to anyone who tries to save a drug overdose victim, either by calling 911 or taking them to the hospital.
More importantly, it will save lives.
Introduced earlier this year, the bill is before the House Judiciary Committee, but it is expected to get discussion this fall, according to Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, one of its sponsors.
“I’d like to see it out of committee and on the House floor,” he said Thursday.
Sprague and others have already done much to address Ohio’s continuing heroin/opiate drug epidemic.
Police officers, emergency medical personnel and other first responders can now use naloxone, a drug that resuscitates users who have overdosed. Doctors can also prescribe naloxone to family and friends of addicts.
Another law keeps minors from being prescribed painkillers unless their parents have been notified. Hospitals have new reporting requirements when they become aware of opiate-addicted babies, and best practices to follow in their treatment. Opiate prescribers must be registered with an automated prescription reporting system used to check patient drug records.
Meanwhile, Ohio has increased spending for drug treatment statewide, meaning more people will get the help they need to overcome addiction.
Still, far too many are unintentionally dying from drug overdoses, which is now Ohio’s leading cause of accidental deaths.
House Bill 363 could slow the death toll.
The Good Samaritan bill encourages calling 911 to seek medical assistance for yourself or someone experiencing an overdose by providing criminal immunity for both the person in need and the person who sought help. The immunity provided is generally limited to low-level drug crimes, and does not provide protection from more serious offenses such as manufacturing, trafficking or distribution of controlled substances.
Sprague, who held meetings around the state last year on drug issues, said he’s learned many people who become addicted to heroin or painkillers can’t just stop and, once in the throes of addiction, the brain operates as if it is diseased.
Yet addicts can recover through treatment, he said.
Opposition has come from lawmakers who don’t believe drug users or enablers should be coddled or encouraged.
But concerns with House Bill 363 should be able to be worked through. Some states have placed restrictions on immunity based on a defendant’s criminal history. Others specify that “good faith” reporting does not include seeking help during an arrest or during the exercise of a search warrant.
Meanwhile, each day the bill lingers, at least several Ohioans will overdose and die, many of them in the company of a friend or family member who fears prosecution if they step up to get them help.
Sprague believes the bill is simply “the right thing to do” because it can save valuable human lives.
“As it stands now, a person may be afraid to call or drop off a friend at the hospital,” he said. “That means we lose a human life of someone who could have fully recovered. But it’s even worse than that, because we don’t get a chance to intervene with the friend because we never know who they are.”
Ohio lawmakers shouldn’t hesitate to join the 21 other states which have already done the humane thing by giving addicts and those close to them another chance at life.
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