Bill would toughen law for drug overdoses

New legislation to toughen state law on drug addicts will require overdose victims to get treatment in exchange for immunity.

“The goal of this legislation is not only to save lives, but to get those people suffering from addiction, opioid use or misuse, into treatment,” said state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township.

According to the state’s Good Samaritan Law of 2014, immunity is provided to people for a minor drug possession offense when he or she seeks emergency medical assistance for an overdose. The law is meant to encourage people to quickly report overdoses without fearing legal repercussions.

However, Yaw said since the law’s passage, emergency personnel have returned to the same location multiple times to treat the same individual for an overdose. The individual then often refuses treatment.

“After listening to many first responders, I believe that we can no longer give individuals suffering from an opioid or other drug-related overdose a free pass, only to have them overdose a second or subsequent time and risk dying,” Yaw said.

Yaw’s bill will require overdose victims to obtain treatment within 30 days after receiving emergency medical assistance in order to qualify for immunity. If they do not get treatment in time they will face jail time.

“It is vitally important that we get them into treatment as quickly as possible,” Yaw said. “If they refuse treatment this time, they can face imminent jail time.”

James W. Laughlin, of Penn Township Police Department in York County, agreed that the individuals should receive counseling and be responsible for the cost of the Narcan drug used to revive them after an overdose.

“At no time should an individual be permitted to sign off and not seek medical attention after being on the ‘verge of death,’ “ Laughlin said. “This mandatory counseling could be the push some individuals need to get on the road to recovery and be responsible for one’s actions.”

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