NJ’s drug amnesty law prompting more 911 calls
It appears a law signed in 2013 is prompting more calls to 911 in New Jersey.
Signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie on May 2, 2013, New Jersey's "Good Samaritan" drug overdose law, encourages people to call 911 for drug overdoses by giving them immunity from prosecution.
Before the measure was signed authorities in New Jersey received very few calls about drug overdoses because the people making the calls were afraid they would be arrested and prosecuted for drug offenses.
"Before Good Samaritan, people usually wouldn't call, and if they did, they would give so little information that it was almost - we were on a hunt trying to find the individual that needed medical attention," said Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson.
Since the law was signed, Thomson said the county has seen a "tremendous increase in people reporting it (drug overdoses) to us." He added that not only are they being reported, but they are being reported in a timely and accurate fashion.
"It's the phone calls that we're getting through 911 of a medical emergency and us being able to respond and administer the Narcan and return people back to their loved ones," Thomson said.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato said having someone report an overdose, or some other medical issue, without fear of prosecution is key.
"This is all about not necessarily incarcerating an addict, or placing criminal charges on an addict - this is about saving a life," Coronato said. "Law enforcement is still looking to hold drug dealers accountable, but this is not about the drug dealers. This is about saving a life and helping the addict."
Thomson agreed that the law is about saving lives and not finding drugs dealers.
"The most important thing for us is the preservation of life and that there should not be fear by anyone that there's going to be criminal ramifications for reporting that," Thomson said. "That's the highest priority we have in law enforcement and that's what the message needs to be to the community out there."
According to a report by Trust for America's Health, drug overdose deaths in New Jersey have gone up 476 percent in the last 30 years.