Good Samaritan Law Allows Reporting of Heroin Overdoses Without Being Arrested

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The number of overdoses from Heroin and other opiates has risen sharply in the last few years in Watertown, and a local group wants to spread the word that reporting an overdose is important and those doing so won’t be prosecuted.

The exact number is not known, but people tracking overdoses get an idea from the number of deaths. From 2010-13, 19 people in Watertown died from drug related causes and there are 11 more deaths where the cause may be related to drug, said Stephanie Sunderland-Ramsey, a program coordinator with Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in Watertown.

Watertown has teamed with Cambridge, Somerville and Everett to work on opiate abuse. They helped the Watertown Fire Department get anti-overdose medication – Narcan – which is now carried on all fire vehicles. They hope to get more for the Watertown Police Department, too, Sunderland-Ramsey said.

The group also seeks to let people know about the Good Samaritan Law which prevents people from being arrested and prosecuted when they report an overdose if they too have been using heroin or another opiate.

“If you call during an overdose, you won’t be prosecuted, unless police have a warrant, if you were using or had drugs,” Sunderland-Ramsey said.

The law passed in 2007 when the Massachusetts saw an average of 12 deaths from overdoses a week. The overdose deaths may have been prevented if the people received medical help more quickly. (Click here to see more information about the Good Samaritan Law.)

(This story in part of a Watertown News series about the impact of heroin in Watertown).

Related Stories (click on the title to view):

Police Chief Sees Heroin as a Growing Concern in Watertown

Watertown Firefighters Now Armed with Antidote for Heroin Overdoses

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