DPA developed new materials with input from current and former drug users, treatment experts, lawyers, doctors and government officials to educate the public about overdose and the 911 Good Samaritan law. With funding from the New York State Department of Health, nearly one million palm cards and posters were printed to educate New Yorkers about overdose and the 911 Good Samaritan law. We are now collaborating with the these stakeholders, including the New York State Department of Health, New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), New York Nurses Association, and Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to distribute these materials in New York.
Accidental overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in New York State, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. In 2009, nearly 2,000 people in New York died from accidental drug overdose. Many of these deaths are preventable, but most people witnessing a drug overdose don’t call for emergency assistance. Why? Studies have found that for those witnessing a drug overdose, the majority hesitate to call emergency services due to fear of police arrest or criminal prosecution for drug possession.
In 2008, over 900 people died from accidental drug overdoses in New York State. In New York City, accidental drug overdose is the 4th leading cause of early death, after heart disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS; and the third leading cause of all death among NYC residents ages 25 to 34. Between 1999 and 2008, over 7,600 people died from drug overdoses in New York City alone. On Long Island, one person dies nearly every day from a drug-related overdose. Many of these deaths are preventable.
Strong, bipartisan leadership emerged in the New York legislature to change the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system respond to reports of drug and alcohol overdose. Led by Senator John DeFrancisco (R, C, IP, Syracuse) and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D, WFP Manhattan), the legislature joined a chorus of community leaders, treatment providers, doctors, students, and others to pass a new law that encourages people who witness an overdose to call for medical help immediately.
On September 18, 2011, New York’s 911 Good Samaritan law went into effect. The law encourages people to call 911 immediately during an overdose situation by offering a limited shield from charge and prosecution of drug and alcohol possession for a victim or witness who seeks medical help during a drug or alcohol overdose.
Stay tuned to learn about what DPA and its allies are doing to ensure that this new law saves lives in New York.