Last year, North Carolina saw 4,243 suspected overdose deaths, according to a report from the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
N.C. Senate Bill 458, if passed, would expand upon existing protections for individuals present at the scene of overdoses. The bill would amend state law to add additional stipulations that prevent bystanders from being held liable for seeking medical assistance.
The bill was most recently referred to the Committee On Rules and Operations in the state Senate on April 3.
Current legislation provides limited immunity to people experiencing overdoses and the person who calls 911 at the scene. The proposed bill would extend that immunity to everyone present at the scene of an overdose where medical assistance is requested.
“Current Good Samaritan laws do not do enough to protect our citizens and need to be expanded,” Reid Getty, an outreach worker and field phlebotomist for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, said.
The bill would also expand immunity from prosecution over the possession or presence of fentanyl if found due to calling medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose. Getty said this is a significant change due to the prevalence of fentanyl in reported overdoses and the drug supply in general.
Lee Storrow, the senior director of external affairs for the Community Education Group, said North Carolina's Good Samaritan legislation needs to have “common sense” provisions that are comprehensive and unified in protecting the possession of all types of drugs in emergency situations.
He said it’s easier and more effective to educate the public on Good Samaritan protections when the coverage is broad.
Tiffany Hall is the harm reduction clinical coordinator for Orange County’s Street Outreach, Harm Reduction and Deflection program. She said the program provides harm reduction services and resources, such as Narcan, and deflects interactions between law enforcement and people experiencing homelessness.