Somerset County Health Department Promotes the Maryland Good Samaritan Law to Encourage Overdose Witnesses to Call 911
February 21, 2017
New billboard visible on Rt. 13 near Revells Neck Road, facing north, heading southbound
WESTOVER, MD – February 21, 2017 – Most people don’t think twice about calling 911 when they see someone suffer a heart attack. Unfortunately the same is not true for all witnesses to a drug overdose. Many hesitate to call 911 for fear of getting in trouble with the law. What they don’t realize is they are actually protected by the law. In the state of Maryland, the Good Samaritan Law provides immunity from arrest or prosecution for people who summon help at the scene of an overdose.
“People may not know this or believe it, so they panic and hesitate when they should be calling 911 for help.” said Sharon Lynch, Somerset County Health Department, Health Planning and Prevention Director. “We are making a concerted effort to help community members understand the Good Samaritan Law and how it protects them from arrest in emergency overdose situations. We don’t want them to be scared to call 911 to save someone’s life.”
“We rely heavily on people in our community to report overdoses,” said Tim Bozman, Princess Anne Police Chief. “If they call 911 to provide aid to someone who overdosed, they will be protected and granted immunity. They are our eyes and ears and can help save a life.”
Bozman added the Maryland Good Samaritan Law also protects a person from violation of a condition of pretrial release, probation or parole if the evidence of the violation was obtained as a result of a person seeking, providing or assisting with medical help to save someone from death from overdose.
According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland saw 1,468 deaths related to overdose from January to September in 2016 with fentanyl and heroin as the top driving causes.
“Some users think they are buying heroin which is long known for its overdose risk, but are actually buying and using fentanyl, which is more potent and even deadlier,” added Lynch.
Another priority in the fight against the opioid epidemic is the push to expand access to Naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid-related overdoses. Now all Maryland-licensed pharmacists can dispense naloxone without a prescription to anyone trained and certified under the Department’s Overdose Response Program.
“Even when a witness to an overdose administers naloxone, it is still critical to call 911 for emergency medical attention,” added Lynch. “Naloxone is active for between 30 to 90 minutes in the body so if it wears off before the opioid do, the person can fall back into an overdose state, risking their lives.”
For more information call 443-523-1790.
Funding provided by Maryland Behavioral Health Administration and SAMHSA.