A coalition of local families and anti-drug advocates joined forces at the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office on Wednesday to urge Long Island’s nine New York State Senators to pass legislation designed to help prevent overdose deaths.
The 911 Good Samaritan Bill, which has passed the Assembly but so far failed to pass the Senate, would allow a witness or victim of a drug or alcohol overdose to call 911 without fear of prosecution for drug possession involving small quantities. Proponents said the legislation would stem an increase in fatal drug overdoses on LI as the region struggles with a heroin epidemic that is directly linked to an upsurge in prescription drug abuse.
“We’re losing upwards of 300 young people per year,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD). “Those deaths are 100 percent preventable.”
Those who witness drug overdoses often “panic and leave” out of fear of being arrested, leaving their friends to die, Reynolds said. An overdose can take up to three hours before proving fatal.
“We want to focus on drug users,” Reynolds said. “We have no interest in protecting drug dealers in any way shape or form.”
Parents who have lost their children to the heroin epidemic spoke out in support of the bill, including Teri and Frank Kroll who lost their son, Timothy, in August 2009.
“Long Island must have a law that will enable people to call for help,” said Teri. “Drug addiction is not a death sentence and without this law it might as well be.”
She added: “My husband and I know that we are not the first parents to lose a child to drug addiction, but we would like to be among the last.”
A spokesman for Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), said state Senate leaders are in talks with their counterparts in the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reach an agreement before lawmakers start their summer break Monday.