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'Good Samaritan' Proposed Resolution Seeks Override of Gov. Veto

Parsippany may join a growing number of New Jersey municipalities defending law that, if passed, would make saving lives a higher priority than punishing people.

In response to the issue of drug abuse in Parsippany-Troy Hills, the township may join other New Jersey towns in urging state lawmakers to override Gov. Christie's October veto of the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act bill. 

After the Township Council's reorganization meeting at Town Hall Thursday night, the body took up the task of finalizing the agenda for its Jan. 15 regular business meeting. Among the items to be discussed is a proposed resolution that calls on the General Assembly and state Senate to take up again the Good Samaritan Act, which would offer limited immunity from prosecution to those who call 911 while trying to assist someone experiencing a drug overdose.

The original bill was passed through both legislative chambers—by the Assembly last May and by the Senate in August 2012—and enjoyed support on both sides of the political aisle. Among those who voted in favor of the measure were District 26 Assembly members BettyLou DeCroce and Jay Webber.

The issue is on the minds of many in Parsippany. Community leaders, clergy, educators, parents and teens came together in December for a Drug Abuse Leadership Summit sponsored by the town's Municipal Alliance Committee. At the event, Patrolman Earl Kinsey, a Parsippany Police Department spokesperson, told attendees that there were four drug overdoses reported locally in 2012.

The proposed resolution's text coming before the Town Council Jan. 15 notes that overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the Garden State and that more than 6,000 New Jersey residents have died from drug overdoses since 2004.

"These deaths are entirely preventable," according to a statement on the website of the Drug Policy Alliance, which endorses the Good Samaritan Act. "The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until several hours after they have taken a drug and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others, meaning that there is both time and opportunity to summon medical assistance.  Unfortunately, fear of arrest and prosecution often prevents people from calling 911 and studies show that as a result, help is called for in only half of all overdose emergencies. 

"This bill provides limited protection from drug possession charges for a witness who calls 911 in these situations."

Many public health organizations, treatment providers and advocacy groups have joined the Drug Policy Alliance in supporting the measure. Among them are the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the North Jersey Community Research Initiative and the New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs Association.

So far 10 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington—have similar laws in place.

Ten New Jersey municipalities, Roxbury, Audubon, Haddon Heights, Red Bank, National Park, Maple Shade, Gloucester Township, Magnolia, Raritan and Flemington, already have approved resolutions urging the Assembly and Senate to override Christie's veto.

The state legislature can either accept Christie's decision or attempt an override. The latter move would require winning two-thirds of the votes in each chamber: 54 in the Assembly and, in the Senate, 27. 

The issue gained national attention in November when the college-age daughter of New Jersey-based musician Jon Bon Jovi was hospitalized after suffering an alleged heroin overdose at her school in New York state. She received medical treatment—and she and a companion who helped her avoided charges—because a Good Samaritan law is in effect there.

Pete January 04, 2013 at 02:21 PM
This proposal -- to override the veto -- makes excellent sense, and may well reduce the number of overdose fatalities. And we all KNOW that, even if the person who calls 911 isn't arrested or prosecuted, that person will be under intense police scrutiny for a long long time.
Natalie Costa January 04, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Drug use - prescription drugs and heroin are epidemic in this country - based on statements by the DEA. This addiction knows no boundaries. It doesn't matter if you live on Park Avenue or the park bench. These 911 laws do not condone bad behavior, it simply saves lives. If an opiate overdose is occurring, first responders can administer Naloxone which instantly stopes the overdose and allows for transport. This law was passed in California in September 2012. It's in place is 10 states across the country. We lose one person every 19 minutes in the US from an overdose. There should be no delay in getting this law on the books. It's a common sense answer to an epidemic. www.behindtheorangecurtain.net
Adam Sonzogni January 04, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Portugal decriminalised drug use about a decade ago. They addiction for what it is, a medical problem. They have seen decreased addiction and decreased drug-related crime. Much like the gun-control argument it is time we start focusing on fixing people and not outlawing "things".
Natalie Costa January 04, 2013 at 07:18 PM
What we see in this country is that we do not have a medical monitoring system for prescription drugs. Most of this addiction issue starts off with misused pain pills - Xanax, Oxycontin, Soma, Opana -- and the supply to the streets is coming from "dirty doctors". What is needed is state by state or federally (2017) - a prescription drug monitoring program that is in "real-time", manadatory use - and this would pinch the supply chain from those dirty doctors who are prescribing for cash - to the streets. Here in California, we have Dr. Lisa Tseng sitting in jail awaiting trial for murder for 3 individuals - possible charges on 10 more. She wrote 27,000 prescriptions in three years. She's just one of thousands of dirty doctors making money hand over fist by dealing prescription drugs. The age of experimentation is between 12 and 15 -so you need to get to kids early. The national age for overdosing is between 18-25 - and they switch to heroin because the cost of the rx drugs becomes prohibitive. Heroin produces the same high for a fraction of the cost.
clyde donovan January 04, 2013 at 07:37 PM
If you know of anyone using or selling drugs, turn them in. Either call your local police, the Morris Country Prosecutor's Narcotics Task Force (973-285-6300) or the federal DEA in Newark (973-776-1100).
clyde donovan January 04, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Drug addiction, including alcohol, is not sickness or illnes.
Sick of the trolls January 04, 2013 at 07:45 PM
You know, "clyde," I just don't get you. How can you go from making an intelligent, coherent, helpful comment like the one you make below about reporting drug dealers to saying something as ignorant and insensitive as this? Are you really this stupid and hurtful, or is it just an act to make people think you're crazy?
Natalie Costa January 04, 2013 at 07:52 PM
It is taking years for the DEA to build a case against doctors. It took 4 years to get Dr. Tseng off the streets. Wish it was as simple as making a call - but it takes a village to get an arrest and prosecution.
clyde donovan January 04, 2013 at 08:32 PM
Report anyone with drugs, even if it's pot or underage people with liquor. Ask your human-resources department at work to mandate regular drug testing as a condition of employment.
clyde donovan January 04, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Bon Jovi's junkie daughter and her boyfriend belong in the joint for drug possession and use.
Sick of the trolls January 04, 2013 at 08:42 PM
"clyde," come on man, we've had this discussion before. There's no need for this type of commentary. Why don't you go over to NJ.com and leave the Patch for the adults, ok?
Adam Sonzogni January 04, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Clyde, Willing to take a look at your peer-reviewed research proving your point. In the mean time the current Medical research as well as the nation of Portugal will disagree with you...
Citizen Jane January 05, 2013 at 03:28 AM
Choose to create laws that allow people to be the best person they can, where ever they are in their life. Whether they are a fellow drug user, a nurse or a police officer, if they are trying to help someone they should not fear prosecution.
Darch January 05, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Please come to this council meeting on Tuesday Jan. 15th to show your support of this very important Resolution that will save lives!
joe raich January 06, 2013 at 07:00 PM
These issues need to include creating meaningful mental health treatment,( not incarceration). How gun violence, drugs and suicide have affected our society are reality. A Council resolution and Governors veto simply miss the mark.

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