In an effort to combat the growing number of fatal drug overdoses in the state, Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 110 Monday, granting criminal immunity to people who call 911 to report a drug overdose.
The immunity protects a person calling 911 from a minor drug possession offense. According to the bill there is a two-call limit and does not apply to callers who are already on parole.
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."
Moore said there may need to be additional provisions and said a two-call limit is not realistic in some cases.
Lakewood Fire Chief Scott GIlman told newsnet5.com that the law could help his EMS responders gather the information they need to adequate treat overdose patients.
"They’ll call and run with no call back phone numbers and we find them much later than we should," Gilman explained.
The law will take effect this September.