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New Jersey's 911 Good Samaritan Law Goes Live

Chris Christie finally signs a bill to protect people who call in ODs. Campaigners tell The Fix they're thrilled.

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The signing is a victory for harm reduction
advocates. Photo via

By Elizabeth Santeramo

05/02/13

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New Jersey's governor Chris Christie today signed into law a combined bill of the 911 Good Samaritan bill and the Overdose Prevention Act. It protects people who make emergency calls about overdoses from arrest or parole revocations, and allows access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid ODs. It's a victory for the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped get the naloxone bill to the governor’s desk, allowing for the language of the Good Samaritan bill to be added. Support from the treatment and recovery community—like the New Jersey affiliate of the National Council for Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD-NJ)—helped breathe new life into the conditionally vetoed, postponed-for-18-months, bipartisan bill. The NJ Legislature and the governor reached a compromise on Monday: to specify that drug traffickers won't be covered by the new law. “This is a triumph of good public health policy," Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, tells The Fix. "This legislation will save lives and we are grateful to Governor Christie and all the legislators who worked so hard to reach this agreement.” New York's version of this bill recently saved Jon Bon Jovi’s daughter from drug possession charges after a heroin overdose, and Bon Jovi attended the signing of the bill this afternoon at Turning Point, a treatment facility in Paterson. 

Linda Surks and Patty DiRenzo, NCADD-NJ advocacy leaders who each lost their son to overdose, were both at Monday’s crucial state house meeting in Trenton. “It is thrilling, very exciting to witness the vote, as it’s something we’ve worked on for so long," said Surks. "I feel strongly that this bill will save lives. Other families won’t have to experience the pain I felt 10 years ago when my son died at 19 of an overdose of prescription drugs.” DiRenzo, whose 911 Facebook page has been "blowing up" with articles on this legislation, is glad to see “how much publicity this has received. It is bittersweet for me because April is Alcohol Awareness Month and it my son Sal's birthday month.”

Devin Fox, executive director of Young People in Recovery of New Jersey, tells us, "We applaud our representatives, along with Governor Christie, in their continued dedication to treating addiction as the chronic brain disease that it is. Now is not the time to stop, however. Now is the time to continue organizing and strategically taking action to ensure that the community we are representing is heard by those very people that we have elected into office." 

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