TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed an amended version of the Overdose Prevention Act into law today, providing legal protection for people who attempt to help those who have overdosed on drugs.
The legislation takes a two-prong approach to help prevent drug overdose deaths in New Jersey. First, it provides limited legal immunity to people who are in violation of the law while they are attempting to help a drug overdose victim. Secondly, it eliminates negative legal action against health care professionals or bystanders who administer overdose antidotes in life-threatening situations.
“No life is disposable, and this bill represents a giant leap forward in New Jersey’s commitment to protecting and preserving all life, particularly when people need it most,” said Christie. “As elected officials, it’s our obligation to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent tragic deaths from drug overdoses, and I believe this bill will do that. I’m grateful that we were able to come together and reach this bipartisan compromise and take meaningful action on this very important issue today.”
“We are one step closer to ensuring that no one else needlessly dies because they did not have access to medication or emergency assistance to stop a drug overdose,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, a sponsor of the bipartisan legislation. “Too many New Jersey families have had to endure the death of a loved one from an overdose, many of whom could have been saved if bystanders were not fearful that they would be arrested and prosecuted for petty crimes. Hopefully this bill will remove that fear and end their hesitation in reaching out for emergency help to save someone’s life.”
“The Overdose Protection Act will help people get treatment faster in life-threatening situations. It is an important tool in our ongoing efforts here in New Jersey to prevent senseless deaths and to get people into treatment” said Dr. Manuel Guantez, CEO of Turning Point, an addiction treatment program in Paterson, NJ that treats more than 2,700 men and women each year.
The Legislature voted to concur with the Governor’s recommendations on the Overdose Prevention Act, S-2082, on Monday. The law will encourage the broader use of opioid overdose antidotes – such as naloxone – by eliminating the possibility of negative legal action against health care professionals who prescribe and dispense or bystanders who administer the life-saving medication. The law provides civil and criminal immunity as well as professional immunity for doctors and pharmacists for prescribing, dispensing or administering naloxone or similar opioid antidote drugs.
The law also provides limited immunity for certain individuals who in good faith seek medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose. Neither the overdose victim nor the individual who seeks medical assistance for the victim can be arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted for obtaining, possessing, using or being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, possessing drug paraphernalia or needles, inhaling or possessing any toxic chemical, or unlawfully obtaining, attempting to obtain or possessing prescription drugs. Additionally, they will receive immunity from the revocation of parole or probation.
The opioid antidote provisions of the law will take effect on the first day of the second month following enactment or July 1. The good Samaritan provisions of the law will take effect immediately.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!