Momentum Grows for New Jersey to Implement Comprehensive Plan to Prevent Drug Overdose Deaths

Press Release January 15, 2013
Media Contact

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243</p>

Trenton—Over the last 48 hours momentum has built substantially for New Jersey to implement a comprehensive plan to prevent drug overdose deaths .  Last night, Parsippany became the 18th municipality to approve a resolution calling upon the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly to override Governor Christie’s veto of the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act  (A578/S851).  The Act provides limited legal protection for those who witness a drug overdose and summon medical assistance.  The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support but was conditionally vetoed by the governor on October 5, 2012.

In addition to Parsippany, seventeen other New Jersey municipalities have approved resolutions in recent weeks calling for a legislative override of the Governor’s misguided veto, including Magnolia, Gloucester Township, Red Bank, Audubon, Camden, National Park, Princeton Township, Fair Lawn, Haddon Heights, Hamilton, Maple Shade, New Milford, Oaklyn, Robbinsville, Voorhees, Roxbury and Pennsauken.  Raritan and Flemington have also adopted resolutions in general support of a Good Samaritan policy for those who witness a drug overdose and summon medical assistance.

In addition, a second overdose prevention bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Health Committee on Monday, January 14.  The Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act (S2082/A3095) would expand access to naloxone, a medication with the ability to reverse the effects of an overdose and literally bring a victim back to life.

Advocates say these two pieces of legislation are key elements in an comprehensive approach to preventing drug overdose deaths.  “It is imperative that we encourage overdose witnesses to call for help and expand access to naloxone, a simple to use and effective medication,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Together these interventions will reduce the alarming and tragic number of accidental overdoses death in our state.”

Deb Archambault, a resident of Parsippany was in attendance when the council passed the resolution.  Her son, Sam, is a recovering addict who overdosed and nearly died in active addiction.  She says, “My son is alive and in recovery today because a 911 phone call and naloxone saved his life.  I’m thrilled that my town recognizes the critical need for a Good Samaritan law in New Jersey, so that more parents are able to share stories of hope and victory like the one I am grateful to be able to tell.”

Overdose is a major public health problem and the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey.  These deaths are entirely preventable.  The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until several hours after they have taken a drug and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others, meaning that there is both time and opportunity to intervene and save a life.  Unfortunately, fear of arrest and prosecution often prevents people from calling 911.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have already enacted Good Samaritan laws for drug overdoses.  Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws expanding access to naloxone.

The New Jersey bills are supported by a long list of public health organizations, treatment providers and advocacy groups in New Jersey, including the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence—NJ, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the New Jersey Hospital Association, Integrity House, the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, Well of Hope Drop-in Center, New Horizon Treatment Service, the Atlantic City Syringe Access Program, the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, Camden Area Health Education Center, the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, the New Jersey Women and AIDS Network, the New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs Association, Paterson Counseling Center, the ACLU of New Jersey, COPE Center, Buddies of New Jersey, Inc., the Hepatitis C Association, Parent to Parent, the Center for Family Services and the Drug Policy Alliance.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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