The Utah House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that is intended to assist people who call for emergency help when someone is overdosing on drugs.
Amelia Sorich died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine even though two friends might have saved her life by calling for help. But the friends chose not to because they feared being prosecuted the drugs in their possession. Holladay Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss says there are too many cases just like that. She crafted a bill to grant limited immunity to Good Samaritans who find themselves in a position to help.
“I’ve had phone calls from family members who said my son would still be alive if this bill had been in place,” she said on the House floor, adding that her stepson died of an overdose last year. “These are tragic situations.”
Around 502 Utahns die from accidental drug overdoses in a year, according to the Utah Health Department. Some are teens making bad decisions. But Moss says about half are adults overdosing on prescription drugs. Her bill follows the lead of 15 other states. It would protect someone who reports a drug overdose and cooperates with authorities from being prosecuted for drug possession or use. South Jordan Republican Rep. Rich Cunningham agrees Good Samaritans should be encouraged to come forward.
“I am in full support of it,” he said, noting he lost a nephew to an overdose. “We need it to protect our family and our loved ones and our neighbors. But I am concerned that guilty by association can come into play.”
The Good Samaritan bill won unanimous support in the House. The Statewide Prosecutors Association supports the legislation. So does the Substance Abuse Advisory Council. It now moves to the Senate. Provo Republican Curt Bramble will carry the bill in that chamber.