An average of one Vermonter per week overdoses and dies from opiates. Their average age is 42. In an effort to reduce the number of deaths, the Legislature has passed two bills.
The Good Samaritan Bill (Act 71) addresses the problem of protecting people who try to help someone who is overdosing. In the past, some people who have called 911 trying to help someone who has overdosed have been prosecuted for using opiates, or parole violations, or other violations. One person spent 9 months in jail because s/he called 911.
Act 71 is intended to encourage a witness to seek medical assistance to save the life of an overdose victim by protecting the witness from prosecution and conviction for certain crimes that are outlined in the bill’s language. If the witness is acting in good faith, they will not be cited for violations of protection orders, being at the scene of the drug overdose or violation of conditions of pretrial release, probation, furlough, or parole. The act of seeking medical help is considered a mitigating circumstance at sentencing for a violation of any other offense. In short, this bill will encourage people to do the right thing without fear of prosecution.
The Legislature has acted to help solve another problem. The prescription drug naloxone is a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of other narcotics and can help in an overdose situation. Prescription drugs can be legally used only by the person whose name on the prescription. If someone has naloxone and is experiencing an overdose, they probably are not capable of using it. However, it is illegal for someone else to administer the naloxone to them.
The Omnibus Opiate Law (Act 75) addresses this problem. Under the bill, a person may administer naloxone to a victim if s/he believes, in good faith, that the victim is overdosing. After administering the drug, emergency medical services must be called, and the person will be immune from civil or criminal liability for administering the drug. The Department of Health is developing a pilot program to make naloxone more available. It is hoped that these two measures will reduce the number of Vermonters who are dying from an opiate overdose.
For more information, check out the bills: