We have an epidemic! Overdose is a major public health problem and the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey. This is just one of the reasons why we need to pass legislation for the 911 Good Samaritan Bill. The Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, if passed, will save lives in the State of New Jersey by providing timely medical attention to the victims of drug overdoses. Bill S851 also intends to address the fear of arrest and prosecution which prevents people from seeking appropriate assistance in the face of a medical emergency by offering limited protection from certain drug charges. Bill S851 is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Assembly companion Bill A578 passed the full Assembly on May 24th with a vote of 67-8-1-4.
My son Salvatore Marchese passed on September 23, 2010 from an accidental drug overdose. Sal was not alone when he passed, but whomever was with him was afraid to call 911 for fear of arrest. Sal was left alone to die. The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until one to three hours after they have initially taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others. Although most overdoses occur in the presence of others, fear of arrest and prosecution prevents many people from calling 911. As a result, medical assistance is summoned in only half of all overdose situations. If these barriers were removed, countless lives could be saved. Sal’s death could have been prevented if the person or persons that were using with him would have just called 911 for help – but they didn’t, most likely for fear of legal repercussions. I lost my son, my daughter lost her brother and her best friend, and my grandson lost his Daddy, all because someone was afraid to dial 911. No one should be afraid to save a life by calling 911 no matter what the circumstances.
I am advocating for passage of this legislation not only to honor Sal, but for all the addicts who are struggling with this disease and unable to get the help they need and deserve. It is a disgrace that these children are unable to get proper treatment. Everyone has a right to live, but when the cards are stacked against you and treatment is unavailable, what do you do? Addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as a disease.
Come on New Jersey, let's save lives - let's lift the stigma and stop judging people - remember, addiction doesn't discriminate.