Press Release  | 02/13/2013

NY Dept. of Health, OASAS, and Community Groups Team Up on Innovative Public Education Campaign to Prevent Overdose Deaths

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Bilingual Campaign Seeks to Publicize New “911 Good Samaritan” Law Encouraging People to Call 911 During An Overdose Without Fear of Arrest for Drug Possession

Thursday at 10am: Valentine’s Day Event to Honor Loved Ones Who Have Died and to Call For Effective Implementation of New Law

New York -- On Thursday, February 14th at 10am, parents, family, advocates, treatment experts and elected officials will gather on Valentine's Day to remember loved ones who died from overdose and calling on those in an alcohol or other drug overdose situation to call 911 to save a life. New York State’s “911 Good Samaritan” law, passed in 2011, encourages people to call 911 immediately in the event of an overdose.  Accidental drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death in New York State, with 359 fatal overdoses occurring on Long Island last year alone. Overdose deaths can be prevented if emergency services are contacted soon enough, but studies show that most people do not call 911 in an overdose scenario because they are afraid of getting a ride in the back of a police car instead of in an ambulance. Under the new law, when someone calls 911 in an overdose situation, they will receive limited protections from criminal prosecutions for simple possession of drugs or, for minors, alcohol. As Governor Cuomo wrote when he signed the new law, “The benefit to be gained by the bill – saving lives – must be paramount.”

The call to action kicks off a major new public education campaign to educate New Yorkers about recognizing the signs of overdose, what to do during an overdose, and the 911 Good Samaritan law. The bilingual materials, available in both poster and wallet-sized form, urge people to call 911 immediately if they suspect an overdose. The materials were designed in a unique collaboration between state agencies and community groups, with input from young people, former and current drug users, treatment providers, doctors, and other health professionals. The materials will be distributed throughout the state and are co-branded by the New York State Department of Health, the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the New York State Nurses Association, the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, the Drug Policy Alliance.

The release of the materials follows a high-profile incident last fall when Stephanie Bongiovi, daughter of acclaimed rocker Jon Bon Jovi, was arrested in Kirkland, NY after overdosing on heroin. A student at Hamilton College, Bongiovi was found by emergency personnel in her dorm room after her friend called 911 to report her possible overdose. When police arrived, they arrested Bongiovi and her friend for allegedly possessing small amounts of heroin and marijuana. Because of emergency intervention, Bongiovi survived. Days later, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara dropped the charges against Bongiovi and her friend, saying that "People will say she got away with murder because of who she is, but this [911 Good Samaritan] law was passed so people don't watch somebody die because they're afraid of jail." Advocates applauded DA McNamara, as his action and statement became a high-profile and critically important moment to teach New Yorkers about the urgent need to call 911 in an overdose scenario.

What: Press Conference about Overdose Prevention and New, Innovative Public Education Campaign to End Overdose Deaths

When: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 10:00AM

Where: LICADD’s Offices ● 114 Old Country Road, Suite 114, Mineola, NY 11501 (Directly across from the courthouse)

Who: Long Island parents of overdose victims; Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, and elected officials

Why: To highlight New York’s overdose crisis and promote efforts to reduce fatalities by launching a new bilingual public education campaign led by NYS Dept. of Health, NYS OASAS, the NYS Nurses Association, Drug Policy Alliance and LICADD.

Links to the new overdose prevention and 911 Good Samaritan education materials – and forms to order the materials – can be found on the NY Department of Health website at http://www.health.ny.gov/overdose

Contact: Jeff Reynolds 631-513-5757 or Evan Goldstein 917-349-6267

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