Georgia Governor Signs 911 Medical Amnesty Law | The Fix
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Georgia Governor Signs 911 Medical Amnesty Law

Georgia became the 19th state to pass limited prosecution immunity to people calling emergency services to help save someone suffering from an overdose.

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By Tessie Castillo

04/24/14

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Today Gov. Nathan Deal signed the “911 Medical Amnesty Law,” making Georgia the 15th state to grant limited prosecution immunity to people who seek help during a drug or alcohol overdose. Georgia also became the 19th state to extend legal protections to people who administer naloxone to someone experiencing a drug overdose.

One of the more popular bills in the general assembly this year, House Bill 965 sailed through committees and floor votes, save for a brief snare when state Sen. David Shafer (R-48) snuck in an unrelated amendment designed to remove online pharmacies from regulatory oversight. The amendment, which was added with no warning, threatened to curtail efforts to pass the life-saving bill, but it was removed and the bill easily cleared both chambers.

Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) introduced the bill after she was approached by a group of Georgian advocates, many of whom had lost friends and families to drug overdoses. “Last year a similar law passed in North Carolina that has been responsible for saving many lives,” she said Cooper. “I’m proud of this bill and of our young people who are helping to spread the word about it.”

Effective immediately, the law expands access to the opiate overdose antidote naloxone. This is good news for some Georgians, such as Kathy Fletcher, who has kept naloxone on hand ever since she accidentally overdosed on her prescription drugs and barely arrived to the hospital on time.

“I’d just taken my regular dose of [a prescription opioid] – which I’d been taking for years – when all of a sudden I felt strange,” she recalled. “I knew something was wrong, but it was like I was in a trance and couldn’t speak. I actually felt my breath slowing down.”

A friend rushed her to a primary care physician, who discovered that Kathy’s blood pressure was 40 over 0 and ordered her to a hospital, where they gave her naloxone. “Naloxone saved my life,” she said. “It should be available to the average citizen just like the EpiPen and glucagen because it’s just as safe, and the faster we get it to people the more we save.”

Currently, Georgia loses more than 1,000 people each year to drug overdoses. It is hoped that the new law will help reduce these premature deaths and offer an opportunity for treatment to those struggling with addiction. Laurie Fugitt, a nurse, advocated for HB965 after seven of her friends lost children to opioid overdoses because no one called 911 or had naloxone on hand.

“Where there's life, there's hope,” Fugitt said. “And this bill will give overdose victims a second chance at life.”

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