NJ Good Samaritan Bill "Not Beaten Yet"

By Elizabeth Santeramo 10/10/12

Governor Chris Christie's veto of a bill giving criminal immunity to people who call 911 to report ODs doesn't end the argument, advocates tell The Fix.

NJ's Good Samaritan law didn't get past
Chris Christie.
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Last Friday, New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, conditionally vetoed the state's bipartisan Good Samaritan Bill, which sought to grant immunity from prosecution to people who call 911 when someone is OD-ing in their presence. Christie claims that the bill wasn't wide-ranging enough on subjects like drug deterrence and public safety; opponents accuse him of stalling at the expense of addicts' lives. On Saturday, Patty DiRenzo, advocacy leader for the New Jersey affilate of the National Council for Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD-NJ), created a “NJ 911 Good Samaritan Bill” Facebook page. “We are not giving up," she tells The Fix. "We have people all over the country supporting this bill. This epidemic is out of control, and saving lives must take precedence over arrest.” DiRenzo has personal reasons to back the bill: “I will keep fighting in honor of my son Sal and for every child struggling with addiction and those we have lost.”

Christie has asked the Division of Criminal Justice to report back in 18 months with a study that addresses the “many social problems that accompany…drug distribution and use.” Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, tells us, “We are very saddened. We had 30 to 40 public health groups and drug treatment organizations support it with no opposition. Overdosing is the leading cause of accidental deaths in NJ," she continues. "This needs immediate attention—not 18 months while people continue to die. It’s heartbreaking for the families who have lost loved ones. They have taken time to testify, to call the Governor’s Office.” Candice Singer, NCADD-NJ policy analyst, adds, “Although we are disappointed, we will continue working with interested groups. This bill saves lives.”

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Elizabeth Santeramo is multi-faceted professional writer whose career began as a researcher and writer for former NYC Mayors, Dinkins and Giuliani. She has written extensively about youth, women, and family issues around alcoholism, addiction, and human trafficking awareness. Elizabeth has been featured on Businessweek.com, ABC-TV, Univision andTelemundo. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter or find out more about her on Linkedin.