Reporting drug overdoses bill could save Utahns lives


By Mallory Jesperson

SALT LAKE CITY – When a former Manti High School football player suddenly died from a drug overdose this last August it left many members of the Sanpete community angry and filled with grief. The young man could possibly have been saved, if those in his presence had put saving his life above the possibility of facing charges for violating Utah’s Controlled Substances Act.

A view looking up at Capitol Hill
A view looking up at Capitol Hill

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, introduced HB11 during this year’s Legislature and said, “this bill has one objective, and that is to save lives.”

Utah currently has the fourth highest drug overdose mortality rate in the nation, and Moss said that this bill might drastically change those numbers.

HB11 would provide an affirmative defense to persons under the influence of illegal substances who call to report an overdose. This protection would only hold as long as that person remains with the victim suffering from a possible overdose until the medical team arrives to assist, and cooperates fully once help arrived.

The aim of this bill is to encourage people to call 911 when friends, family or even acquaintances overdose with out fear of being prosecuted for substance abuse.

The bill’s senate sponsor, Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, appeared in a Senate committee and said that HB11, “provides a mechanism where an individual who needs immediate medical treatment, that one of their companions or associates can call for emergency medical assistance with out the threat of prosecution — and makes an affirmative defense if there are other violations of the law, the fact that they were calling for medical assistance provides for an affirmative defense.”

HB11 passed through both the House and the Senate and is currently waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah.

When appearing before the House committee, Moss said, “countless numbers of parents and others have called me since I started this bill and e-mailed saying, my son or daughter would still be alive if such a bill had been in place and people had known about it.”

If HB11 becomes law, Utah will be the 16th state in the U.S. to have a law protecting those who report overdoses.

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