Hundreds sign letter in hopes to expand good Samaritan protection laws

CHARLOTTE — There is a push in North Carolina to expand good Samaritan protection laws.

The law passed in 2013 states that people who overdose on drugs or those who witness an overdose and get help for the victim cannot be prosecuted for having small amounts of drugs and paraphernalia.

However, some say there is a problem because the law does not include all drugs.

They want fentanyl and meth added to the list of drugs protected under the law.

Lauren Kestner, who works with people who struggle with addiction, said that the other person will not likely call 911 in that type of drug-related situation in North Carolina.

“No one wants to call 911,” said Kestner, the director of the Center for Prevention Services. “Research across the board is showing no one feels safe calling 911. Law enforcement will arrive on scene and because of our law and its limited protection, no one feels safe.”

Hundreds who have lost children, siblings, partners, and friends to overdoses, wrote a letter to the state General Assembly. Fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state.

Kestner was among 363 people who have lost a loved one to an overdose who signed the letter.

“I believe in saving lives and I believe in unconditional regard for each and every one of those lives, and that’s why this is important to me,” said Kestner told Channel 9 on Wednesday.

Kestner wants the law to also protect college students and everyone who is at the overdose scene.

“I believe it’s important for this law to include fentanyl,” said Charles Odell, who is with the Dilworth Center. “If for no other reason, you can’t help someone if they aren’t alive.”

Odell said that around 70% of overdoses involve fentanyl, so including the drug in the Good Samaritan law makes sense.

“The good Samaritan law should include the most commonly used drug for the most common cause of overdoses,” he said.

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Channel 9 contacted lawmakers on the committees that could address the issue, but we have not heard back.

The Committee on Health and Human Services meets on Oct. 11.

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Dan Matics

Dan Matics, wsoctv.com

Dan is a reporter and anchor for Channel 9.