State News

Police, community leaders say call 9-1-1 if an overdose occurs

‘Good Sam Law’ protects from criminal prosecution

Vermont law enforcement and public health leaders joined together March 31 to urge Vermonters to call 9-1-1 if an overdose occurs, to save people’s lives. Vermont’s “Good Samaritan Law” provides protections from criminal liability for those who call for help from the scene of an overdose.

A recent report from the Vermont Dept. of Health (VDH) found that, based on preliminary data, opioid-related deaths increased by 38% in Vermont in 2020, from 114 deaths in 2019 to 157 in 2020. According to VDH, fentanyl—which was involved in 88% of opioid-related deaths in 2020—continues to be the primary driver of opioid-related deaths in Vermont.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan, State Police Colonel Matthew T. Birmingham, and Grace Keller, program coordinator at the Howard Center Safe Recovery, last week urged Vermonters to utilize the protections provided by Vermont’s Good Samaritan Law , as know as  “the Good Sam Law,” and to call for medical help in the event of an overdose, without fear of criminal consequences.

Under the Good Samaritan Law, passed in 2013, calling emergency medical assistance for a drug or alcohol overdose creates protections from drug prosecutions and violations of furlough or parole. The law intends to save people’s lives by incentivizing calling for help by providing immunity for those who call to report an overdose.

“Saving lives is a top priority for Vermont’s law enforcement, not prosecuting those seeking medical help in emergencies,” said Donovan. “I hope that we can spread greater awareness about the Good Samaritan Law so that no Vermonter fears calling 9-1-1 in the event of an overdose. Taking this action step could save someone’s life.”

Birmingham said, “Those of us in law enforcement want you to know that we are there to help with the health and safety of victims of a drug overdose. We want you to remember that you will not face criminal consequences, and you could save your loved one’s life!”

Under the Good Samaritan Law, when someone seeks medical assistance for an overdose, the overdose victim and anyone helping care for the victim while awaiting emergency medical assistance cannot:

Be prosecuted for any drug crime based on evidence found from the incident;

Get sanctioned for violating trial release, probation, furlough, or parole for being at the scene of an overdose;

Be found in violation of a restraining order, for being at the scene of the drug overdose, or for being within close proximity to any person at the scene of the drug overdose;

Have personal property seized by law enforcement through civil asset forfeiture from that incident.

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