Senator Irene Aguilar’s 911 Good Samaritan Bill continued on its path through the Senate Monday, passing its second reading on the Senate floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill aims to save lives and improve public health by encouraging those in the presence of a drug overdose to put thoughts about a victim whose life may be in danger above fears of arrest or criminal prosecution for being in the presence of illegal drug use.
“The bill sends a very strong message that saving lives is much more important than putting people into the criminal justice system,” Senator Aguilar said. “If we can get this information to people who are using prescription and other drugs and let them know that they’re not going to be arrested for helping someone who overdoses, we can help save lives.”
The Good Samaritan Bill would create limited immunity for persons who report an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event if one or more person calls 911 to make a good faith report of the emergency, if the person remains at the scene until a first responder arrives, and if the person cooperates with the first responder. The limited immunity extends to use and possession of minor quantities of a controlled substance.
There are approximately 28,000 deaths from overdoses each year on the national level, and in certain Colorado counties, as many as 16.2% of all deaths result from overdoses. Most overdoses occur in the presence of other people and take several hours to cause death, but research finds that in up to half of all overdose cases, no one calls for help, and those calls that are made are often delayed as witnesses try ineffective methods of reviving people.
The bill had strong bipartisan support, with Senator Shawn Mitchell and Senator Ellen Roberts joining Senator Morgan Carroll to rise during the debate and speak in support of the bill.
Powerful testimony also came during an earlier Judiciary Committee hearing, when Samantha Ortiz from the Dean of Student’s office at the University of Colorado testified in support of the bill. Ortiz cited the encouraging results since a similar law passed offering immunity to minors in possession of alcohol who make 911 calls, noting a significant decrease in alcohol overdoses on campus and an increase in the number of students seeking medical assistance.