A bill aimed at saving lives by encouraging people who witness drug overdoses to call 911 has passed the Washington Legislature. The bill passed the House on February 28 by a vote of 57-39 (with 2 excused), after previously passing the Senate by a vote of 47-1 (with 1 excused). Washington is the second state – after New Mexico – to have passed such a measure.
Sponsored by Sen. Rosa Franklin, the Save a Life bill (SB 5516) provides immunity from drug possession charges to people who seek medical assistance in drug overdose situations. The bill also expands access to naloxone, a powerful opiate antagonist that reverses overdoses from opiates within moments of administration.
By removing the most common obstacle to seeking help in overdose situations – fear of police involvement – the bill encourages witnesses to call for help and save lives.
“This measure responds to an alarming spike in overdose deaths. Its passage is a step toward treating drug use with a rational and effective public health approach,” said Alison Holcomb, ACLU of Washington Drug Policy Director.
The bill now goes to Gov. Gregoire to be signed into law. A similar measure in the House (HB 1796) was sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman.