State representative Carol Moss is sponsoring a bill she hopes will reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in the state. Moss’ “Good Samaritan” bill is her second piece of legislation on the topic. The first, which was introduced in 2006 and died in committee, would have penalized a person for abandoning someone who was overdosing on drugs.
Moss’ new bill adopted suggestions from people who work in substance abuse and addiction programs, and instead uses incentives to solve the growing problem.
“What I hope to see happen and what I’d like to see, is to save lives by encouraging people to call if they know that they would have protection from prosecution just for using drugs or possessing drugs,” Moss said.
The bill would give a drug user who works with responders and stays with the victim immunity from possession charges. It would also allow for a possible mitigation of other criminal charges such as distribution or assault.
“Utah is the fourth highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths,” Moss explained. “We have more people die in Utah from drug overdoses than die in automobile accidents in a year.”
Five hundred and two overdose-caused deaths occurred in Utah last year. Many of the deaths were preventable said Moss, who will be sponsoring a companion bill to make the opiate overdose countering drug Naloxone more available to first responders.
Still, the effectiveness of Naloxone depends on how quickly responders are called.
“States that have passed this with other prevention measures like education, and then a good Samaritan law and then this next bill I’ll have with Naloxone…it’s really, really made a difference in the number of drug overdoses,” Moss said.
The bill will go to the House floor in January with unanimous support from the Law Enforcement Committee. Over a dozen other states have enacted similar laws in the last three years.