Lawmakers Take No Action To Extend Good Samaritan Law

Jun 26, 2015

A law designed to encourage people to get help for a drug overdose will expire on July 1st. State lawmakers were unable to reconcile versions of the Good Samaritan law before the General Assembly adjourned for the session.

Map of states showing Good Samaritan and naloxone (also known as Narcan - an overdose antidote medication) laws. Rhode Island's Good Samaritan law expires July 1st.
Credit Corey Davis / Network for Public Health Law (https://www.networkforphl.org/)

The Good Samaritan law protected people who called 911 about an overdose from being arrested for drug possession. Lawmakers considered extending the law and expanding it to people on parole or probation. But the General Assembly left for the summer without taking any action. That means legal protection expires in just a few days.

The Rhode Island Medical Society and Governor Gina Raimondo were among those advocating for the law. Raimondo sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to preserve it, and several health care professionals and other advocates for people struggling with addiction lobbied lawmakers to act.

Rhode Island’s Attorney General Peter Kilmartin declined to comment, but he has expressed concerns in the past. His office has been compiling statistics about the number of times police officers have been barred from charging someone with a crime because of the Good Samaritan law. Documents from Kilmartin's office show that's happened 92 times.

Since January 2015, the Rhode Island Dept. of Health says emergency first responders have administered Narcan 1,019 times to reverse an overdose. Narcan is an overdose rescue drug all first responders, including state police, carry.