(Chicago, IL) – December 1, 2011. What is one of the most important steps that could be taken to save the life of a teenager in the throes of a drug overdose? Telephone for medical help.
But fear is a call-blocker.
The fear of arrest by either the teen overdosing or by a friend witnessing the overdose too often stifles a life-saving telephone call, according State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).
To puncture the fear blocking a call to emergency medical care, Cassidy spearheaded in the Illinois House a “good samaritan” plan, Senate Bill 1701, that would offer limited legal protection to those seeking medical care due to an overdose, legislation approved by the Illinois Senate, 54-0, this week in Springfield.
“Drug prevention should always be our first goal, and this legislation offers an important second chance for someone whose life is in danger to take the first step towards recovery,” Cassidy said.
The measure offers limited immunity for violations of possession of drugs in small amounts for a person who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone overdosing or is himself experiencing an overdose.
Cassidy noted that a study of college campuses where these policies had been implemented revealed that overdose deaths dropped by at least 50%.
To prevent the law from being abused by drug dealers, there are strict limitations to the amount of controlled substances an individual can possess and no immunity is provided for drug sales, according to Cassidy.
“This legislation is not about letting drug dealers off the hook, it is about protecting the lives of young people who need help,” said Cassidy.
The legislation’s safeguards won the active support of retired-Chicago Police Captain John Roberts whose son died of a drug-overdose.
Cassidy credited the lobbying of both Roberts and Karen Hanneman, who also lost a child to a drug overdose, to helping win the bill’s passage.
“They were critical to the lobby efforts” said Cassidy.
State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) sponsored the measure in the state Senate.
The first-term lawmaker is urging Governor Pat Quinn to sign the bill which is on the way to his desk after the Senate vote.
“In Illinois, a young person is more likely to die from a drug overdose than from a car accident,” Cassidy said. “It is my hope that the governor will quickly sign SB 1701 into law so that we can save young lives.”
Hope springs eternal.