Drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of over 36,000 Americans every year. In Georgia, overdose deaths more than tripled from 1999 to 2013, and the number of prescription overdose deaths increased 10 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Opioid overdose is typically reversible through the timely administration of naloxone, a safe and effective medication that reverses the effects of opioids, and the provision of other emergency care. However, some current laws limit access to naloxone and other emergency treatment by making it difficult for those likely to be in a position to aid an overdose victim to carry and administer the drug. These laws can also discourage those witnessing an overdose from calling for help. Additionally, in some circumstances the first responders dispatched to help overdose victims do not carry naloxone and are not trained in its use. In an attempt to reverse the unprecedented increase in preventable overdose deaths, a number of states have recently amended those laws to increase access to emergency care and treatment for opiate overdose.
In 2014, Georgia joined their ranks. House Bill 965, “Georgia 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law,” provides limited immunity from arrest, charge and prosecution to individuals who experience a drug overdose and are in need of medical care, and for those who seek medical care in good faith for a person experiencing an overdose. The law expands access to naloxone by authorizing trained first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel to administer the medication. Additionally, the bill establishes limited civil and criminal immunity for medical professionals who prescribe naloxone, and laypeople who administer it to a person suspected of suffering from an opioid overdose.
This fact sheet examines the law and its provisions.