Good Samaritan bill shielding Kansans reporting overdoses from prosecution passes House

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The Kansas House has passed a good Samaritan bill that would shield people from prosecution when they call emergency services to report an overdose.

Legislators took up the issue after overdose deaths more than doubled over the past five years, largely due to fentanyl.

Kansas and Wyoming are the only states that haven’t enacted some form of a good Samaritan law. The Kansas House passed the bill unanimously last week and had sponsors from both sides of the aisle. It now goes to the Senate.

“The aim for this is to keep drug users, drug addicts, however you want to refer to them, alive long enough for them to seek treatment,” said Rep. Nick Hoheisel, R-Wichita, a sponsor of the bill.

Good Samaritan laws aren’t uniform, though, and some give blanket amnesty for people calling for emergency medical services while others have more conditions the caller must meet. The bill in Kansas doesn’t cover calls if the overdose occurred during a drug deal or if there’s a trafficable amount of drugs.

The person who calls 911 must also provide their full name, remain at the scene and fully cooperate with medics and police.

“I ask this body not to view this not as a soft on crime bill, but a pro-life bill,” Hoheisel said. “We have to keep these individuals alive long enough for them to seek treatment.”

Hoheisel was joined in his sponsorship by Rep. Pat Procter, R-Leavenworth; Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka; and Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson. Probst has been a longtime advocate for harm reduction policies in the Statehouse and was one of the leaders of decriminalizing fentanyl test strips in the state.

“I think it’s worth noting, and I feel proud of the evolution I’ve seen in this body over the last few years, about substance abuse and the recognition that it’s not necessarily a moral failing and it’s not necessarily that someone is doing wrong, so to speak, but that we have a broader understanding of addiction,” Probst said.

Proctor mirrored this sentiment, saying if someone told him three years ago that he’d be advocating for immunity from drug crimes that he wouldn’t have believed it.

“But then I had a chance to meet some of the families in my district impacted by this fentanyl crisis,” Proctor said. “If you feel as helpless about this problem as I do, this flood of fentanyl that’s coming across our border, this is our chance to do something. This is our chance to keep these folks alive who are dying from this poison.”

As reported in the Topeka Capital Journal

 

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