Few know about 'Good Samaritan' law for drug overdoses

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 31, 2015 1:36 PM

In this May 13, 2015 photo, the contents of a drug overdose rescue kit is seen at a training session in Buffalo, N.Y., on how to administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkillers. The kits are being provided to community members in Erie County who seek training in how to recognize a potential drug overdose and administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkillers. New York and other states have been equipping lay people, as well first responders and families of addicts, with naloxone in an effort to increase the chances it will be there when needed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

(York) -- Few people who are addicted to heroin or other opiates know about a law meant to save their life if they overdose, and York County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Sunday says he's already seen cases where it could have kept someone alive.

Sunday says police have responded to overdoses only to find the scene is cleaned up and a body is on the ground.

That often means someone hid any evidence of drug use before trying to save a life and call 911.

The Good Samaritan law is meant to remove the fear of criminal prosecution.

If you call 911 when a friend is overdosing, you won't face charges for most crimes.

But many people addicted to drugs don't know the law exists.

Sunday says it's hard to reach the people who need the information the most.

"They keep it a secret from their families, they keep it a secret from sometimes their husbands and wives, and so when you're able to keep a secret that well, the prosecutors office and police certainly aren't going to know," he says.

Sunday says the DA's office is open to suggestions on how to raise awareness. "A large amount of users may not trust the police and they may not trust the district attorney's office just by virtue of the fact that we're law enforcement and that they have in the past been arrested. And so with that in mind, that is something we're trying to overcome through community outreach."

It's already planning to distribute laminated cards to police and community organizations.

His office will apply for grants to pay for the campaign, but it's also prepared to use drug forfeiture money.

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