The sponsor of Missouri’s new law providing some immunity for those seeking help for overdose victims says he’s achieved all he set out to do, and is looking for other ways to help substance abusers.
Senate Bill 501 contained language offered by Representative Steve Lynch (R-Waynesville). It provides immunity to anyone seeking medical help for themselves or anyone else who is overdosing, from crimes including possessing small amounts of drugs; probation, parole, or restraining order violations; and underage drinking.
Lynch said that combined with other laws allowing first responders, friends, and loved ones of abusers to have and administer naloxone – a drug that counteracts opioid overdoses – could save lives. Lawmakers considering the bill heard that often a person will die of an overdose or from drinking too much because others don’t call for help out of fear they will be prosecuted for crimes or face other consequences.
“In North Carolina where they did their bills the same year it was just a couple years later that there were more drug rescues than there were overdose deaths,” said Lynch. “We are certainly hoping that will be the case for us.”
Lynch also sponsored the language that in 2014 and 2016 became the laws related to naloxone.
He began working on these issues after learning that the son of one of his childhood friends died of a heroin overdose.
“What inspired me was he was taking his sadness and turning it into something positive, and he became an advocate that other parents wouldn’t have to go through what he did,” said Lynch, who said as he’s worked on these issues he’s seen many other parents who do the same. “To turn all their energies around and to try and get laws changed, to raise awareness … It inspired me to get into an area that I don’t really know much about.”
Having sponsored now a series of laws aimed at saving the lives of overdose victims, Lynch is now wondering what the next such issue to tackle might be. He’s meeting with the advocacy groups he’s worked with before in looking for the next steps that could be taken.
“Most of those areas are going to be in the treatment side and in the prevention side, and certainly those are so important,” said Lynch. “Saving their lives is such a narrow part but important part of it, but if we can get people not to use it or if we can get people off of heroin or the opioid addiction … I’m really looking forward to making some progress on some treatment laws.”
Meanwhile, Lynch says there must be an awareness campaign so that people with drug problems know about the laws that have been passed in recent years and can take advantage of them.
“I’ve already talked to some of the people that I’ve been dealing with on these bills for years, particularly in the metropolitan areas, to run some big awareness [campaigns] that you can call because if they don’t know, they’re still not going to call,” said Lynch. “Unfortunately it’s not just the metro areas that are having problems – it’s everywhere.”
The immunity law is often called the “Good Samaritan” law, or “Bailey and Cody’s Law,” for two overdose victims whose parents believe having it in place might have saved their children’s lives.