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UNG student lobbies for ‘Good Samaritan’ law

POSTED: January 12, 2014 11:30 p.m.

Four years ago, Jeremy Sharp’s friend died from a drug overdose while the people around him would not call 911 for fear they would get themselves in legal trouble.

As the state legislature convenes today, Sharp’s goal is to ensure that situation never happens again.

“The Good Samaritan law covers people that are under 21 that have consumed too much alcohol,” he said. “It gives them legal immunity when they call 911.”

Sharp, 26, has established a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy to encompass the University of North Georgia campuses; he’s based mainly in Gainesville but about 20 students from across the four campuses have joined.

Over the years, he’s had four friends die from drug overdoses.

“A lot of my friends from high school just went down the wrong road,” said Sharp, a political science major. “They continued with their addictions, and it wound up with their deaths.”

The Good Samaritan bill is also expected to allow for people to find emergency help if they are around a person who is overdosing, without fear of getting in legal trouble themselves.

“If that person calls 911 and gets help and stays around and cooperates with paramedics and police if necessary ... they will not get into trouble,” Sharp said.

Similar bills have been passed in 14 states so far, including neighboring Florida and North Carolina.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, is expected to sponsor the bill in Georgia’s legislature.

Sharp plans to coordinate students from across the state to visit Atlanta and speak with lawmakers.

“Right now, our aspect at school is raising awareness for (the bill),” he said. “We’ve been going to bars and clubs, (to) our families, our work and ... at the school.”

He said he’s received nearly 400 signatures in support of the bill.

The final part of the Good Samaritan bill will be to allow naloxone to be an over-the-counter drug. Naloxone is frequently used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

“Right now, we’ve got opiate addiction, which is rampant,” he said. “Opiate overdoses now outnumber auto accidents, and I believe it’s the fourth-leading cause of death in our country right now. Just opiate overdoses.”

The World Health Organization estimates 13.5 million people take opiates worldwide, with 9.2 million using heroin. The most recent information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said more than 15,500 people died in the U.S. in 2009 — a 300 percent increase over the past 20 years.

“These kids are getting into heroin these days,” Sharp said. “They’re starting out with pain pills and those type of things, and it’s getting to where they can’t find the pain pills and they resort to going to Atlanta and finding some heroin.

“And it’s killing them. They don’t know how pure it is, they don’t know anything about it and then they get around some people where they overdose or take too much or too little or whatever it is they do.”


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