Legislators should back overdose law

No one can say with certainty how many of the 182 East Ohioans killed by drug overdoses during the past several years might have been saved had medical help been summoned quickly. Almost undoubtedly, some would have survived.

A good Samaritan law for drug abusers is under consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives. It is similar to measures already on the books in several other states.

If enacted, the bill would exempt people from arrest on minor drug possession charges if they help a person suffering from an overdose of opioid drugs such as heroin. Those involved in more serious crimes such as dealing drugs would remain at risk of arrest.

Those near overdose victims often are drug abusers themselves, fearful that if they call emergency medical personnel, they will find themselves being carted off to jail. But the exemption bill might well encourage them to do the right thing and summon help. Again, that could be the difference between life and death for some overdose victims.

Drug overdoses kill more Buckeye State residents than traffic accidents. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 2,110 lives were claimed by overdoses in Ohio.

As of last month, Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk reported at least 26 local deaths were the result of heroin use, some combined with other drugs.

Clearly, enactment of the proposed exemption from arrest bill could save local lives, and Ohio legislators should support it.