Proposed ‘Good Samaritan Law’ aims to save the lives of some who would overdose

A state House member wants to encourage people to call for help for friends and loved ones having an overdose.

Representative Steve Lynch presents his proposed
Representative Steve Lynch presents his proposed “Good Samaritan” law, which he believes would save lives of some who would suffer from an overdose. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Waynesville Republican Steve Lynch says his legislation, House Bill 294, is commonly known as a “good Samaritan” law.  It would protect a person from arrest or prosecution for charges related to minor possession of drugs or paraphernalia, or being under the influence, if that person calls for emergency medical help for a person suffering a drug or alcohol overdose.

“Good Samaritan laws like this one address the fear of criminal repercussions for assisting and seeking medical emergency services while they may have a small amount of drugs on them or may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said Lynch.

Lynch alternately refers to the bill as “Bailey and Cody’s Law,” for two overdose victims, each of whom had a parent testify in favor of HB 294 in a House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety hearing.

Jim Marshall thinks such a law would have prevented friends of his son, Cody, from leaving where he was found by his father:  on the living room floor dying of an overdose.

“I really believe those young men feared the perception of what we’re talking about – of being prosecuted, being blamed for the overdose situation,” said Marshall.  “I think that’s the big part of this whole scenario here.  Even if the police are saying they have discretion to prosecute, there’s that fear.”

Lisa Benton said friends of her daughter, Bailey, watched as she had two seizures and waited for a drug dealer to leave before calling 911.

“I don’t see how anybody could watch anybody suffer like that, and I know that my daughter made a terrible choice to do drugs, but she didn’t deserve to lose her life.  She should be here right now,” said Benton.  “I strongly believe that if this law was in effect that it would have saved her.”

Representative Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis) asked whether the bill goes far enough to truly make a difference.

“If somebody knows they can still be charged with manslaughter or distribution, does this fix the problem?” asked Hill.

Supporters told Hill the bill would be part of a series of steps toward addressing the problem.  Lynch said another of those steps was taken last year, when the legislature passed and former Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill to make a heroin overdose antidote more readily available.