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Good Samaritan Bill

The Good Samaritan Bill, otherwise known as HB 11, was passed into law in 2014. This law “enables bystanders to report an overdose without fear of criminal prosecution for illegal possession of a controlled substance or illicit drug” (Utah Department of Health, 2016). There are however, requirements if a person expects to be protected under this statute. The person reporting the overdose has to stay and accompany the person who is overdosing until medical assistance arrives and must cooperate with authorities that are present whether that is police or emergency personnel. (le.utah.gov, 2014). This law also covers those who are experiencing an overdose themselves (The Network for Public Health Law, 2017)

            According to the National Conference of State Legislators, Good Samaritan laws have been enacted in 37 states in the country and the District of Columbia (National Conference of State Legislators, 2017).“The Good Samaritan law takes the position that no person who suffers an alcohol or drug overdose should die because of fear of criminal charges, and that it is within the state’s best interests to encourage reporting dangerous situations where they occur to save lives.” (Scott, 2014). This law can work in three ways; it can protect a person or victim from being arrested and charged in the first place, it can also be used as a viable defense in court if the county the person is in decided to move forward with criminal charges, and it can also be used as a mitigating factor in sentencing when the affirmative defense was not provided (The Network for Public Health Law, 2017).

            There are only a few pros to this policy, one of them of course being that individuals may be provided with immunity from charges when they choose to stay and help save a life. This will likely increase the likelihood that a bystander will call for help and will increase the number of people who survive an opiate overdose. One challenge is many people are still unaware this policy exists and even those that do know may not trust that it will actually be a viable defense. In addition, not all officers recognize or even know about the Good Samaritan Law, therefore law enforcement may still be a barrier in people exercising this protection also.

            Another drawback of this policy is that although it is good intentioned, it does not do a lot to treat the actual problem, it is more geared toward the symptoms. It does help save lives, but it does not offer any treatment options and it does not require the bystander or victim to be given any resources or information about how to obtain treatment.

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