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New Jersey law protects people who report drug overdoses

There have been many situations in the past involving young people who died as a result of underage drinking or drug use because the people the victims were with feared getting into trouble after calling for help. In order to encourage people in this situation to call the police, the laws have changed.

For years, New Jersey law has offered protection to people who seek medical help for underage drinkers as well as the underage drinker. But earlier this year, New Jersey lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie enacted a new law that offers the same protection to people who seek medical help in drug overdose situations.

Under the new law, people who seek help for the overdose victim cannot be charged with drug possession or use offenses or probation violation. Healthcare professionals or bystanders who administer medications to counteract the drug overdose are also protected under the law.

While some see the protections as encouraging underage drinking and drug use, a majority of people acknowledge that the new law, known as the Overdose Protection Act, saves lives.

According to a prosecutor from Hunterdon County, the law has already saved at least one life since being enacted on May 2. In late August, a 20-year-old overdosed on heroin and his friend called 911, resulting in the overdose victim's life being saved. The prosecutor said without the protections offered by the new law, the friend may not have called 911 for fear of being prosecuted on drug charges.

In order to qualify for the protection, the person who calls police must stay with the overdose victim and cooperate with emergency responders.

Source: Hunterdon Democrat, "Hunterdon prosecutor credits N.J. Overdose Protection Act with saving heroin user's life," Renée Kiriluk-Hill, Sept. 6, 2013

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