AUGUSTA, Maine — In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill designed to prevent the prosecution of those who report drug-related emergencies.
Known as the Good Samaritan law, it gives immunity to a person who calls 911 at the scene of an overdose and protects the person who has overdosed from being charged or prosecuted for any of the following crimes related to drug use and possession:
- possession of scheduled drugs
- acquiring drugs by deception
- possession of hypodermic apparatuses
- use of drug paraphernalia or a violation of probation
Three years after the law's unanimous passage through the Maine Legislature, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to expand it by passing L.D. 1862, An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Good Samaritan Law Concerning Drug-related Medical Assistance.
"Anything that creates hesitation to call for emergency services at the time of an overdose is potentially leading to catastrophic ends," said Rep. Lydia Crafts, D-Newcastle, who supports expanding Maine's Good Samaritan law. "L.D. 1862 does exactly that. It will save lives and create healthier and safer communities for all of us."
Crafts told NEWS CENTER Maine that L.D. 1862 would expand all of the protections from the current Good Samaritan law to everyone at the scene of an overdose. According to Crafts, under the law, no one would be charged for any nonviolent crimes including bail and probation violations committed at the scene of an overdose.
“I know first hand, after losing a family member this past fall to a drug overdose, what happens when people don’t feel safe calling law enforcement," said Crafts. "The people in the presence of my family member who overdosed were on probation and feared for the repercussions of calling [police]. You know, if the Good Samaritan law had been expanded at that point would the outcome have been different?”
Crafts and other sponsors of the proposed bill say it would empower more people to call 911 for help to report an overdose without fear of criminal consequences.
“What we thought we were doing in the last legislative session was providing that safety for people to call," said Courtney Allen, policy director for the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project. "Unfortunately, we missed a couple of things that people are saying they need in order to feel like they can call safely, and so, this is really just an effort to kind of clean up the work we did last legislative session and really get it right this time.”
Tonight, an official campaign for the bill to expand Maine's Good Samaritan law will be launched via Zoom at 6 p.m.
You can click here to sign up for a link to Zoom.