Bill OK’d to offer immunity for reporting drug overdose

David Eggert
Associated Press

Lansing — People under age 21 could call 911 to report a prescription drug overdose without having to worry about facing criminal charges under legislation approved Wednesday and poised to be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder for his expected signature.

The “Good Samaritan” bill, which is similar to a Michigan law on the books for minors helping someone in danger from alcohol intoxication, targets the worsening crisis of prescription painkiller addiction.

It would exempt individuals age 20 and younger from prosecution for illegally using or possessing prescription drugs if a health emergency is reported to authorities. It would apply regardless of whether someone seeks medical attention for oneself, or if another person calls for help. Suspected drug dealers with higher quantities than is sufficient for personal use would not qualify for immunity.

The bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Al Pscholka of Stevensville, introduced the legislation after 16-year-old, Mason Mizwicki of Watervliet, died when partygoers reportedly did not get him help because they feared getting in trouble, despite his repeated pleas.

“If this bill saves even one young life, it’s a success,” said Pscholka, who worked with Mizwicki’s mother and aunt to pass the measure that won unanimous approval from the Senate on Wednesday.

The House, which approved the same version of the legislation in October, was expected to take a final procedural vote on the legislation.

Thirty-four states have some form of a Good Samaritan or 911 drug immunity law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A task force created by Snyder recently recommended immunity from prosecution for those who call 911 to report overdoses.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who chaired the task force, said Wednesday that he will push in 2016 to extend the legal protection to people 21 and older and to those reporting non-prescription drug overdoses, such as heroin- and cocaine-related emergencies.

“We think of drug problems being more as a young person problem. But we find with prescription drugs and the way that substance use disorders have really expanded across the entire landscape that this is really something that I think would be appropriate for older people, too,” he told The Associated Press.

“It is appropriate that when a person is experiencing an overdose that there not be disincentives for people to call for help. The difference between a prescription drug and another drug — at this point when somebody’s life is in danger, I think we need to err on the side of life.”