State bills aimed at protecting drug users who call 911 to report overdose

SAN ANTONIO – Protecting drug users who are saving a life — that’s the purpose of two proposed bills in the Texas Legislature that would shield drug users found with small amounts of paraphernalia when calling an ambulance to report an overdose.

State Senate Bill 305 and state House Bill 2432 are good Samaritan bills that would offer protection when the drug user calls for help with an overdose, stays at the scene and cooperates with medical staff.

Nigel Williams, a peer recovery coach with Rise Recovery, said the fear of getting caught prevents many users from calling for help. He said during his drug-using days, no one would have called an ambulance if he had an overdose.

“There was a common understanding among myself and my friends that if you needed an ambulance while we were hanging out, we wouldn’t call one,” he said. “We would drop you off at a hospital.”

Williams supports the bills because he said it will save people’s lives. Many of his friends were not lucky enough to have this option. He, along with other members of Rise Recovery, have been attending hearings in Austin dealing with drug bill.

“When I go talk to someone in legislation, I don’t come from a hypothetical standpoint. I come from lived experience,” he said.

The bills would not protect repeat criminal offenders or those with large amounts of drugs.

Evita Morin, executive director of Rise Recovery, said the goal is to save lives, not bring changes against someone who needs help.

“Our state’s not interested in letting people who are criminal masterminds off,” she said. “This is truly about people that are struggling with addiction, and if they call somebody for help if someone is overdosed, or if they themselves are overdosed, (making sure) that they’ll be protected.”

Williams and other peers are also speaking in support of laws that would provide assistance for minors struggling with addiction. 

“There’s no way to abuse this law. No one’s just going to call for funsies,” he said. “If you’re calling the ambulance, it’s because someone needs help.”

The governor declined to sign a similar bill in the past because he said it would offer protection to drug dealers. This time, the hope is that language changed in the bills will help push them through.

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