A new Ohio law taking effect Tuesday offers immunity from prosecution to people trying to get help for someone overdosing on drugs or overdose victims themselves who seek assistance.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 110 in June. The law covers people calling 911, contacting a police officer or taking an overdose victim to a medical facility for up to two times. They would again be subject to prosecution on the third call.
The legislation is one of several efforts by Ohio to stem the tide of the addictions epidemic, which killed a record 3,050 people in Ohio last year, an average of eight per day.
The epidemic has worsened as abuse of prescription painkillers led to increased heroin use and now the availability of even more deadly drugs such as fentanyl.
Akron police have reported 660 suspected heroin overdoses since July 5 with 63 deaths.
"It is overwhelming. The police department, the fire department and all of our first responders are responding to these calls each and every day. Sometimes, there could be up to 20 a day," said Akron Police Lt. Rick Edwards.
Lawmakers who sponsored the bill hope the immunity will increase the likelihood that those who witness a drug overdose will call for help.
“The 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law is an important part of a larger package of legislative initiatives to address Ohio’s addiction epidemic, and I appreciate everyone’s contributions to pass this bill into law,” said Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay). “It is our hope that this bill will urge individuals to seek help and save lives.”
While some critics argue that the law provides a "get out of jail free card" for illegal drug users, addiction therapists and emergency responders tell newsnet5.com it's a much needed step in the right direction.
Genya Goodwin, a clinical supervisor with Moore Counseling and Mediation Services, said fear of arrest is a common reason among patients not to report an overdose.
"This could really be a good start," Goodwin said. "If patients find themselves in this situation they might handle it differently now."