Media, PA – December 7, 2021 − Today, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jennifer Smith joined Senator Kane, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, Representative Craig Williams, and representatives from Delaware County agencies and treatment centers for a press conference highlighting the importance of Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law.
Overdoses have increased dramatically; 2020 saw a 30% rise in overdose deaths compared to 2019. Pennsylvania currently ranks as the state with the eighth most drug overdose deaths per capita. In 2020, over 5,000 Pennsylvanians lost their lived to drug overdoses. Raising awareness of Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law has life-saving implications.
“Over the past year, I have met with constituents to talk about the opioid crisis. I have spoken to parents who have lost children, parents who have an empty seat at the table for the rest of their lives. And I’ve met with parents who lost children to preventable deaths. In overdoses, a few minutes can make the difference between saving a life and losing a loved one. The Good Samaritan Law can create that life-saving window,” said Senator John Kane.
Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law provides immunity from prosecution when an individual calls 911 in a good faith effort to aid an individual who is overdosing. An individual who comes into contact with law enforcement officers as a result of these calls will not face prosecution. The Good Samaritan Law also provides immunity for individuals who make a good faith effort to administer Narcan (naloxone), a medication used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose.
“While naloxone is absolutely critical in saving lives, it is only one piece of responding to an overdose,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. “I encourage everyone to spread the word about Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law and the protections it provides for individuals who call 911 when witnessing an overdose emergency. Fear of charges or prosecution should never hold anyone back from calling for help and ultimately someone’s life.”
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer highlighted the partnership between law enforcement and addiction treatment in Delaware County, noting that every single officer in Delaware County carries Narcan (naloxone). “I applaud Secretary Smith and Senator Kane for shining a light on the important protections offered by the Good Samaritan Law,” said District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer. “My office, together with the support of our partners in County government, have worked hard to ensure that we get Narcan into the hands of those who need it. But as the overdose statistics make clear, we must do more. We must educate the public that if they witness an overdose, they can call for help without fear of prosecution.”
“Calling 911 more is more than just reporting an overdose and requesting an ambulance; it’s an opportunity to get life-saving medical advice like how to perform CPR or give Narcan over the phone,” said Tim Boyce, director of Delaware County Emergency Services.
Representative Craig Williams shared his own story of losing his brother to an overdose last year. “I am always proud to work with Senator Kane on addiction issues. He and I both have important personal stories to tell and use in our joint public service. I am grateful to him for his leadership on today’s issue involving Good Samaritan laws and awareness,” said Rep. Craig Williams. “I never want us to lose an addict to overdose, especially when someone nearby may be able to render aid or assistance. Those Good Samaritans need to know that we will protect them from civil and criminal liability as a consequence of simple helping someone else. Our common humanity demands that we help each other. Full stop.”
Dawn Troutt also shared a personal story of loss. Her son died of a fentanyl overdose in 2019; it was 20 minutes before anyone called 911. “That’s the empty chair that all of the parents and family members have to look at every holiday, every birthday, knowing that it’s never going to be filled,” she said, pointing to a chair with a memorial t-shirt honoring her son.
The event was hosted at Mirmont Treatment Center, the alcohol and drug treatment center for Main Line Health. Jessica Molavi, Mirmont’s Clinical Director of Specialty Programming, emphasized the importance and availability of treatment. “There is hope. As long as there is breath in your body, there is hope,” said Jessica Molavi.
A full recording of the event can be found at www.facebook.com/SenatorJohnKane.