Many people in Utah are personally affected by drug abuse and the number of deaths caused by overdose has prompted state representative, Carol Moss to take action. She has created a law that will provide limited criminal immunity to people who notify the police in the event of an overdose. The proposal is sometimes called the “Good Samaritan” bill because it aims to encourage drug using companions to save the lives of their friends. Her goal with pushing the law into effect is to keep more young people alive in spite of the bad decisions they might have made.
Tragic Drug Abuse and Death in Utah
A recent case in Utah provided a frightening example of what Moss hopes to avoid with the Good Samaritan bill. An 18 year old named Amelia Sorich overdosed on cocaine and heroin but instead of getting help, her friends dumped her body in the foothills. They were afraid to call 911 out of fear they would be prosecuted for drug use. In dealing with this and other similar cases, Moss initially thought to create a law that could charge people with reckless neglect who failed to report an O.D. This measure was denied as the substance abuse treatment community expected it would backfire and lead to even more deaths. Instead Moss created the Good Samaritan law which could potentially reduce the fear of reporting overdoses and ultimately save more young people’s lives.
Protecting Overdose Assistance
The substance abuse treatment community in Utah is supporting Moss’ new bill and so are prosecutors and lawmakers in its initial stages. It will be considered by the full Legislature in January to determine if it will become a state law. If it is approved, the law will prevent charges of simple drug possession or use by anyone who has contacted the police regarding an overdose and also stayed with the victim until they arrive. While those that call in could potentially be prosecuted for other crimes such as dealing, they can significantly help their situation by assisting and cooperating with authorities when there is an overdose.
The families of overdose victims have also given their support to the measure hoping that being able to safely call for help will go a long way toward preventing more drug-related deaths. The mother of Amelia Sorich whole-heartedly endorsed the proposed bill because of the situation that led to the loss of her daughter. She says that one of her daughter’s friends had a phone in hand ready to dial 911 but was talked out of it by another friend present. There have been cases of young people being prosecuted after calling for help such as Gareth Bozung because he had sold the heroin to the person who overdosed. He was given a sentence of one year on a monitoring bracelet and three years of probation. Cases like this are one of the major deterrents that cause people to avoid seeking emergency help in the event of a friend’s overdose.
High Number of Overdoses
If the bill passes then Utah will be the 16th state to create this type of law protecting those assisting with an overdose. Utah is currently dealing with a growing use of synthetic drugs, especially prescription medication. According to the state’s health department statistics, 502 people died last year in Utah as a result of a drug overdose. Prescription drug overdoses represent the majority of overdose deaths but there are still growing numbers caused by heroin and cocaine. The number of deaths is the highest they have had in the last seven years. These shocking numbers are a part of the motivation behind the “Good Samaritan” law which could potentially reduce overdose deaths in the state.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, please contact us.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.