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Bill Aims To Reduce Drug Overdose Deaths

Aired 8/31/12 on KPBS News.

A bill heading to the governor's desk would give people who witness a drug overdose and call 911 immunity from prosecution.

— The California Legislature has sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown that supporters say could help reduce drug overdose deaths. The measure would give legal protection to people who call 911 if they witness an overdose.

It's illegal in California to be under the influence or have possession of a controlled substance. Violators face fines and imprisonment.

Supporters of the bill say that's a major disincentive for people to call 911 if they're with someone who's overdosed.

Dr. Shawn Evans is chief of staff at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. He said the law should be changed.

"All too frequently, we'll have somebody drive up, essentially open a door, maybe remove somebody from a vehicle, and drive off honking to get our attention," Evans explained. "And what that represents is somebody's fear of prosecution and fear of the circumstances."

The bill would give people who report an overdose immunity from prosecution for drug possession and being under the influence.

Nine other states have such a law.

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