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ME Advocates Urge Expansion of Good Samaritan Law

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Thursday, January 20, 2022   

A bill before the Maine Legislature would expand the state's Good Samaritan law, which protects people seeking help for an overdose from arrest or prosecution.

Currently, the law protects the person who is experiencing the overdose and the person seeking medical assistance for them.

Courtney Allen, policy director for the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, said it does not protect everybody at the scene, and does not protect people for things such as bail or probation violations. She explained the expanded bill would fill those gaps.

"This law is too weak to protect most of my community members, and drug-using communities are very well aware of it," Allen asserted. "We must pass a Good Samaritan Law that is clear and concise and able to be executed out to drug-using communities that they understand and that they trust."

The bill's sponsors note being arrested or convicted for drug-related offenses can have major impacts on people's ability to get housing, employment or student loans.

Sherri Talbot, a substance-abuse counselor and Narcan trainer, said it is important to call 911 when an overdose occurs, even if Narcan, a treatment for opioid overdoses, has been administered.

She said opioids can last longer than Narcan, and there may be other substances involved.

"The number of cases where people aren't calling 911 is absolutely overwhelming in the area I work," Talbot pointed out. "We hear about very few overdoses except for the ones where people don't make it. It is so vital, I cannot stress enough, it is vital that people feel safe to call, because right now they don't."

Forty-seven states plus Washington D.C. have a Good Samaritan Law, and nationwide, the Government Accountability Office found those states see lower opioid-related overdose deaths, and when people know about the law, they are more likely to call 911.


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