September 17, 2014

HARRISBURG - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania praised the state House of Representatives today after the chamber passed legislation to provide prosecutorial immunity to witnesses to drug overdoses who call for help. Sometimes called “Good Samaritan” laws, the legislation was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“This bill has the potential to save lives. And it is a step back from the enforcement mentality toward drug use. For decades, the commonwealth has tried to incarcerate its way out of the drug abuse problem. All we have to show for it is a bloated prison system, shattered lives, and little progress on drug usage.

“It is past time to address substance abuse as a public health matter, not a law enforcement matter. This bill is a small step in that direction.”

The following can be attributed to Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“As this bill has moved along, it has been clear that legislators from both parties, law enforcement, and civil rights advocates agree that saving lives is the number one priority. We are grateful that Senator Pileggi and House leadership ensured that this issue continued to move forward.

“When a police officer comes upon a situation where someone is overdosing, the last thing on his mind should be, ‘Who’s going to jail?’”

Senate Bill 1164 now returns to the Senate for reconsideration after the House added several amendments, including expanded access to Naloxone, a prescription drug that negates the effects of an opiate overdose, to include first responders and the family and friends of a person with substance addiction.