“Save a life. Don’t think twice, just call 911.”
That’s the public awareness message the Department of Human
Services’ (DHS) Division ofMental Health and Addiction Services launched today in an effort to reduce the number of drug overdoses in New Jersey by protecting people who report them from criminal prosecution. The
campaign announcement follows the Acting Attorney General’s directive that law enforcement
throughout New Jersey comply with the requirements of the “Overdose Prevention Act”.
The statuteknown as the Good Samaritan Law–was signed on May 2, 2013 by Governor
Christie. The campaign aims to encourage people to immediately call emergency or medical
personnel if they suspect someone is overdosing from illegal or prescription drugs.
“We need to get the word out that, in the vast majority of cases, a person is now immune from
prosecution if they tryto save someone from overdosing, even if they are using a drug
themselves,” DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez said. “In many cases, people don’t report
overdoses because they are afraid they will be arrested and charged with a crime. That fear can
risk a life. Many overdoses can be treated with swift medical intervention.”
In addition to radio interviews and widespread distribution of information about the new law to
community-based programs, DHS’ initiative also includes outreach to schools, colleges, drug
treatment facilities, medical personnel, and behavioral health professionals. The Division of
Mental Health and Addiction Services has spearheaded an overdose prevention committee and
partnered with the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Addiction to continue developing a
widespread, detailed outreach aimed at reducing overdoses.
“Governor Christie has sent a clear message that he wants to save lives and in most cases, forego
prosecution of people who are present during an overdose situation,” said Commissioner Velez.
“I think this message will resonate throughout the community.”
The law reads that the Legislature finds and declares that encouraging witnesses and victims of
drug overdoses to seek medical assistance saves lives and is in the best interests of the citizens of
this State and, in instances where evidence was obtained as a result of seeking of medical
assistance, these witnesses and victims should be protected from arrest, charge, prosecution ,conviction, and revocation of parole or probation for possession or use of illegal drugs. It is not the intent of the Legislature to protect individuals from arrest, prosecution or conviction for other criminal offenses, including engaging in drug trafficking.
The legislation defines a drug overdose as “an acute condition including, but not limited to,physical illness, coma, mania, hysteria, or death resulting from the consumption or use of controlled dangerous substance or another substance with which a controlled dangeroussubstance was combined and that a layperson would reasonably believe to require medical assistance.
”The new law also encourages wider prescription of antidotes that can counteract opioid overdoses