Pubdate: Tue, 25 Feb 2014
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The London Free Press
Author: Jennifer O'Brien
Page: A5


Londoners seek immunity for those calling for help from the scene of
an overdose

Fewer people would die of drug overdoses if their friends could call
911 without fear of being charged with possession, users say.

It's why a group representing London drug users has launched a
petition urging legal immunity to those calling for help from the
scene of an overdose.

So-called "Good Samaritan" legislation - in effect in 14 American
states - would bolster death-prevention efforts underway in London,
said Tracy Law of the London Area Network of Substance Users.

"That's the number one reason people die (of overdoses), because those
who are there won't call 911," said Law. "If we had Good Samaritan
laws it would mean police are there only to deal with the overdose and
the medical issue at hand and won't be able to lay drug charges."

Posted at activism website, Law's petition addressed to
London MPP Deb Matthews has collected 100 signatures.

Matthews wasn't immediately available to comment.

Police don't automatically attend drug overdose calls but often
paramedics will request police assistance if there are concerns for

Reluctance to call 911 is part of the reason the Middlesex London
Health Unit will start distributing a drug called Naloxone. Through
injection, Naloxone reverses the effects of a potentially fatal
overdose from opioid drugs such as Oxycodone, fentanyl or heroin that
depress the central nervous system and can stop breathing.

Health-care providers - and in some U.S. cities, police - have been
using Naloxone to reverse overdoses for decades, and last October the
province made it available at no cost to qualified public health
organizations as part of Ontario's harm reduction strategy.

Distribution could begin as early as April, and will include training
on how to respond to an overdose - which includes calling 911.

But people are scared to call 911, because they don't want to get
caught with drugs and drug paraphernalia themselves. Instead, stories
include friends hoping an overdose will wear off with sleep, or trying
to wake up a peer with fresh air or a cold bath.

Asked if London police had a protocol for laying charges while
responding to drug overdoses with paramedics, Chief Brad Duncan said
situations vary. "Our first priority in such cases would be to assist
EMS to ensure that the overdose victim receives immediate medical
attention," he said in an e-mail response.

The health unit is collecting data to determine the estimated number
of opioid overdoses in London, but one outreach worker said recently
he believes there are between 12 and 15 yearly.

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What the London Area Network of Substance Users wants:

Immunity for 911 callers Judgment-free access to health care Safe
injection site in London Reduce stigma towards substance users

To see the group's petition go to
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