New York state overdose prevention bill becomes law
Governor Cuomo signs A2063C
By Timothy Bolger on June 20th, 2011
New York State lawmakers have passed a bill designed to help prevent fatal drug overdoses by sparing witnesses who report them from being prosecuted for minor drug possession charges—a fear that has inhibited some substance abusers from calling for help, sometimes with deadly consequences.
Anti-drug advocates on Long Island lauded the unanimous state Senate passage of the 911 Good Samaritan Bill on Monday afternoon. The bill had previously passed the state Assembly and has been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law. The bill would go into effect immediately after being signed.
“When it comes to getting help for someone suffering from a drug or alcohol overdose, we need fewer bystanders and more people willing to get help,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said.
The bill would not protect drug dealers caught with large quantities of narcotics. Its passage comes at a time when Long Island is in the throes of a heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic that has been estimated to claim up to 300 people annually.
“We don’t want to condone drug use, but neither would we want to subject drug users to a death penalty,” lawmakers wrote in a memo justifying the legislation.
“This is a way to stem the tide of overdoses that are 100-percent preventable,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, a nonprofit group that has been lobbying for the law.
“Now our attention turns to ensuring that this new law is implemented quickly and effectively, as we work to let people know that calling for help is critical,” he added.
Teri Kroll, coordinator of People United to Stop Heroin on Long Island (PUSH-LI) who lost her son to drug abuse, also praised the bill’s passage.
“I’m thankful that lawmakers have realized the severity of the ongoing drug crisis on Long Island,” she said.