The state House has approved a bill that supporters hope will prevent overdose deaths.
House Bill 294 would give immunity from charges for minor possession of drugs or paraphernalia or being under the influence to a person who calls for emergency medical attention for someone who is overdosing on drugs or alcohol, and would give immunity to the person in need of medical attention.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Steve Lynch (R-Waynesville), called the bill an effort at “harm reduction,” and refers to it as “Bailey and Cody’s law,” for two overdose victims whose parents believe that having such a law in place might have saved their children’s lives.
“I fight hard on this issue because I believe that every life is valuable, and that some, because of bad decisions, or bad circumstances, or bad home life, or running with the wrong group, make one wrong decision sometimes and because heroin or opioids are so powerful, it takes all those dreams that they had and all those goals, and it becomes the next fix that becomes their focus,” said Lynch.
Lynch’s legislation won bipartisan praise and support. Velda Village Hills Democrat Clem Smith said in the neighborhood he grew up in, he saw people who had overdosed and their bodies were left, sometimes for days, in places like alleys and empty lots by people afraid of being prosecuted if they called for help.
Lynch said this “Good Samaritan” bill has been shown in other states and local areas to save lives, particularly when working in conjunction with bills that allow first responders or friends and loved ones to have and administer naloxone – a drug that counteracts overdoses to opioids, including heroin. Missouri in 2014 and 2016 enacted such laws, both also sponsored by Lynch.
Lake St. Louis Republican Justin Hill, a former police officer, was one of 21 “no” votes against HB 294. He said by giving immunity to callers and those overdosing, the bill takes away an opportunity to get those individuals into treatment programs.
The bill passed with 134 votes and goes to the Senate for consideration.