Bill aiming to lower number of deadly overdoses in Idaho advances inside the statehouse

Law would give immunity to person who calls 911
Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-20 17:15:51-04

With the opioid epidemic hitting the Gem State hard, local officials are seeing more and more deadly overdoses. A bill proposed inside the statehouse aims to increase the number of lifesaving 911 calls before it's too late by giving immunity to the calling party.

Currently, Idaho is one of only nine states in the United States without a law in place protecting those who seek medical assistance when witnessing - or experiencing - an overdose from being charged or prosecuted for their involvement.

The so-called "Good Samaritan" bill is quickly making its way through the statehouse. 

House Bill 649 would essentially give immunity to the person who calls 911 when witnessing an overdose, stating they will not be charged or prosecuted for being under the influence - or in possession - of a controlled substance.

"The Good Samaritan bill is for situations where there's been a drug overdose, and the people around them would be able to call [911] and not be worried about getting in trouble with the police when they call," Representative Sue Chew of Boise said.

On Monday, Senator Dan Foreman expressed concerns about the bill giving immunity to drug users committing felonies, suggesting the bill be held in committee to tweak the wording to apply only to misdemeanor cases, but all others on the committee voted to move the legislation forward as is.

Lawmakers have seen how similar laws in other states are already saving lives.

"There are many people that are affected by this disease called addiction and they have so much to give," rep. Chew said. "And for their lives to be snuffed out for this, or any other kind of situation - if it's avoidable, let's do it, because I want the person that can save another person's life to have their life."

During the Senate Health and Welfare Committee reading, Senator Maryanne Jordan praised the bill for finding a balance with a responsible outreach in an emergency situation without going too far.

"I think it's something that can save lives and encourage people to get help that need it," Sen. Jordan said.

The bill passed the House last week with a 67-1 vote and advanced in the Senate Monday. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a vote with a "do pass" recommendation.

Lawmakers also discussed the intent to track overdoses in the coming years, as reference for the future, to see if the bill is having an impact on the number of lives saved.