UPDATE: Drug Overdose Bill Passes House

October 25, 2011

It shouldn’t be a crime to help save someone’s life.

That’s why the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), the Roosevelt University Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, and ACLU of Illinois are advocating for the passage of a bill in the state  that would allow friends and families of drug overdose victims to call for help without fear of prosecution. As it stands now, too many people flee the scene of a drug overdose because they’re justifiably scared of being arrested.

Passing the(EMS) Access Act, SB 1701, is a common sense way to save lives, said David Ernesto Munar, AFC president. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-IL) and State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-IL), is expected to be voted on in this week’s veto session after passing unanimously out of the state Senate.


“AFC supports this effort because we value the lives of drug users,” Munar said. “We've made enormous gains in reducing HIV transmission among drug users and helping people suffering from addictions access HIV prevention, medical and addiction treatment services.”

He continued: “Sadly, we've also seen the number of people dying of preventable overdoses increase. This bill will help boost survival among drug users -- a necessary first step to help them access needed medical and behavioral services in order to rebuild their lives.”

Calling 911 can be the difference between a tragic ending and a second chance. Joining AFC and partners in the fight for EMS Access Act’s passage, Naperville mother Karen Hanneman and former Chicago police captain John Roberts have been telling their own heartrending stories to illustrate how the legislation could save lives.

Watch the CBS story above about the bill and why Hanneman and Roberts are supporting it.

The EMS Access Act will protect from prosecution for drug possession those who call 911 or seek medical attention for drug overdose victims. The protection has limits: If large amounts of drugs are found or a drug-induced homicide occurs, law enforcement could prosecute.

But encouraging calling 911 for overdoses would make an important difference. Illinois is one of 16 states where more people die of drug overdoses than car accidents. And it’s getting worse in some counties. Will and McHenry counties saw an increase of more than 100% in heroin-related deaths from 2006 to 2008.

Eight states (Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Utah) have similar laws in place.

For more information on the EMS Access Act, SB 1701, check out this fact sheet.

Categorized under Advocacy and Illinois.

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