Pennsylvania State Senators unanimously passed a bill to offer immunity to drug users who call 911 when someone is having an overdose.
The Pa. Senate voted 50-0 to pass Senate Bill 1164, known as a Good Samaritan drug overdose law, during their session in Harrisburg, Pa. on Tuesday.
The bill, would amend the state’s controlled substance law, to offer drug users immunity from prosecution for certain drug crimes when they call for help when a person they are with experiences a drug overdose. To receive immunity, a person must call 911, give authorities identifying information about themselves and stay with the overdosing person until help arrives. The bill’s writers say the law is written in a way that would ensure drug dealers would not be given immunity.
The law was introduced by Pa. State Senator Dominic Pileggi (R-9th), who serves parts of Chester and Delaware Counties, after he was approached by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.
Hogan says prosecutors wouldn’t typically prosecute a Good Samaritan in a case where they got help for an overdosing person, but believes people don’t realize that. So, he says, getting law on the books would help alleviate that.
Lynne Massi, a drug abuse advocate, says such a law could have saved the life of her nephew, David Massi. The 27-year-old was left brain dead after an overdose at a friend’s apartment in 2012. Lynne and her family believe David’s friends did not call for help because they were using drugs and were afraid of being arrested.
Several other states already have such immunity laws – including New Jersey, Delaware and New York. Pa.’s legislation has also gotten the stamp of approval from the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
The bill now moves onto the Pa. House where Sen. Pileggi is confident it will pass. He hopes the legislation will become law by the Spring of 2014.