Delaware law grants criminal immunity for those who report drug overdoses

 Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del., signs Good Samaitan bill that encourages dangerous overdose situations to be reported to police.

Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del., signs Good Samaitan bill that encourages dangerous overdose situations to be reported to police.

In an effort to save lives of those who may suffer from alcohol and drug addictions, Gov. Jack Markell (D-Del.) signed new legislation that will not hold people accountable if they report alcohol and drug overdoses even if the call comes from the person in need of the help who’s under the influence.

The bill is called “The Good Samaritan 911 law” is in honor of two Delawareans, Kristen L. Jackson and John M. Perkins, Jr. who both died of a substance overdose. Senator Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrook), who sponsored the legislation, says the bill hits close to home because she knows the family of Kristen L. Johnson who died of a drug overdose when friends were too afraid to call for help.

“It’s a big step, we have to move forward to educate the children and all people that if they’re out with their friends they don’t need to be afraid to call 9-1-1 if something goes wrong,” said Sen. Cloutier, R-Heatherbrooke.

“To be able to take a personal tragedy that’s unimaginable as a parent and to turn that into a gift to other families is remarkable,” said Gov. Markell.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Under the Good Samaritan law, people will be granted criminal immunity when they report any life threatening medical emergency. This means a lot to Dave Humes, who believes his son would be alive today if it was already in existence.

“In my son’s instance, he was with some other people and he overdosed. The people he was with lifted him up, they placed him in his own automobile, they drove him to the hospital and walked away. They didn’t ring the doorbell, they didn’t blow the horn, they did nothing,” said Humes.

Several families and representatives from the organization “GRASP” (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing) all came to Tuesday’s bill signing. Elizabeth Perkins of the Delaware chapter says the bill will truly benefit many families.

“If we can save one child or one mother from going through what we been through it’s certainly all worth,” said Perkins who lost her son in 2011 to a heroin overdose.

“When Elizabeth Perkins and I sat down in May she shared the story of her son John who was elementary school classmate of mine. In the stories of many young Delawareans who left us too soon, I wanted to do everything I could possibly do to make sure Delaware puts health and safety above all else, and that we encourage people to save the life of an overdose victim, rather than cross their fingers and hide the overdose from paramedics and police, and hope everything turns out ok,” said Senator Bryan Townsend, (D-Newark), one of the bill sponsors.

According to Gov. Jack Markell, signing the bill into law helps Delaware’s ongoing commitment to putting a stop to prescription drug abuse that numbers prove to be much higher than those killed every year than traffic accidents. Last year he said a prescription monitoring program to track prescriptions and identify medical professional who abuse their license to prescribe highly addictive drugs was formed.

Although the bill encourages people to report dangerous overdose situations and not be held responsible for calling in such incidents, serious offenses and felonies will not be excluded.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal