The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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Washington to Become Second State with Overdose Protection Law

Law Encourages People Who Witness Overdose to Call 911 without Fear of Prosecution


On Wednesday, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign a
bill that will protect people calling 911 when witnessing a drug
overdose. Washington will join New Mexico as the second state in the
country with this life-saving legislation.

Accidental drug overdoses cause the death of more than 26,000
Americans every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control,
drug overdose now ranks as a leading cause of preventable death in the
U.S., second only to motor-vehicle accidents.

"This law will save lives," said Meghan Ralston of the Drug Policy
Alliance. "The majority of people who overdose are in the company of
others, but don't get help because people are afraid to call 911 out of
fear of arrest."

This new Washington legislation will provide limited immunity from
prosecution for simple drug possession for people who call 911 to
report an overdose, as well as for the victim of overdose. The new law
also focuses attention on naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, by
allowing people to possess and administer it to people overdosing on
opioid drugs, such as Vicodin.

"I'm so pleased we were able to steer this important bill to
enactment," said Roger Goodman, State Representative for Washington's
45th District. "Washington State holds the unfortunate distinction as
the nation's leader in overdose deaths, so it's an urgent matter for us
to reduce the harm. From the beginning we had support from the state
Medical Association and from many parents who have tragically lost
children to overdoses, and in the end we were able to ease the concerns
of law enforcement and garner their support."

Numerous states have introduced or are looking into overdose
protection laws including: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Rhode Island. On the
federal level, Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) has introduced the
Drug Overdose Reduction Act, which would establish an innovative grants
program for organizations across the country working to prevent drug

"There is an overdose crisis in this country and it is encouraging
that states are starting to address this situation," said Ralston. "It
should never be a crime to call 911 and to try to save someone's life."

For more information about solutions to the overdose crisis in the United States, see the Drug Policy Alliance's major report Preventing Overdose, Saving Lives.

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

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