Florida Law goes into Effect
The new law provides immunity to people who seek medical assistance for individuals experiencing a drug-related overdose. Specifically, it prevents the person making the call for help from being “charged, prosecuted or penalized” for possession of a controlled substance while acting in good faith to save another life.
Many overdose deaths occur in the presence of someone, usually a friend, who fails to call for help out of fear of the consequences. The purpose of the 911 law is not to stop people from abusing drugs. Instead, it’s to eliminate fear of being arrested and prosecuted over an overdose crisis and get the panicking witness to pick up a phone and call for help as quickly as possible.
For anti-drug advocates like myself, this is a sensible, smart law that we need more of to fight back against drug abuse, particularly prescription pills abuse, which in many states kills more people than traffic accidents every year. In Florida alone in 2010, there were more than 2,400 unintentional deaths caused by drug-related poisonings.
Our organization, Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education (NOPE) Task Force, uses our trademark slogans “Be a hero, tell someone™” and “Make the call, dial 911™” when educating young people to always seek medical help if they observe an overdose, even if drugs are present.
Florida – the epicenter of our nation’s prescription drug epidemic – passed the 911 law earlier this year through unanimous, bipartisan support after a previous attempt to enact the law failed. We join at least 10 other states, including Washington and New Mexico, in establishing such a law. More than 90 colleges and universities also have similar laws on their books.
Let’s save lives by taking advantage of this new law.
Karen Perry is the Executive Director of NOPE Task Force.