The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Good Samaritan Laws
By Shane Reader, PhD, Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years. People experiencing overdoses require immediate medical attention: any time wasted before reporting the emergency to 911 lowers their chances of survival. While as many as 85 percent of opioid overdoses occur in the presence of a bystander, fewer than half are reported. The purpose of 911 Good Samaritan Laws (GSLs, also called Overdose Bystander Laws), then, is to encourage bystanders to report overdoses as soon as possible by providing immunity for certain criminal consequences of substance use.
Texas adopted the latest GSL in 2021, bringing the total number of state GSLs to 48. Including the municipal GSL in the District of Columbia, 99 percent of United States residents may receive some form of immunity. (See Figure 2.) While policy scientists have not reached consensus, promising analyses suggest GSLs with strong protections save lives: specifically, laws offering protection from arrest, in conjunction with expanded naloxone access, predict a 10 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths.
However, an analysis of GSL provisions suggests treating all laws equivocally may disguise a more complicated picture.
The ATTC Network is funded by SAMHSA and the author’s opinions do not necessarily represent the opinions of SAMHSA or the ATTC. We respectfully offer this article to encourage healthy discussion to advance our field.
SAMHSA Resources Spotlight
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This tip sheet explores climate change, hot weather, and impacts of heat on people who use medication to manage mental health and other health conditions.
It offers steps for individuals and communities to enhance safety and build resilience.
Advisory: Cannabidiol (CBD) – Potential Harms, Side Effects, and Unknowns
This advisory introduces readers to cannabidiol (CBD), how it is derived, and how it differs from delta-9 THC and other cannabinoids. It focuses on the risks and harms of CBD, especially those sold over the counter, and clarifies common misconceptions about CBD.
It is critical the public be made aware of the potential harms associated with CBD use. Parents are advised to not let their children use non-FDA-approved CBD products.
Addiction Science Made Easy
Co-use of opioids and stimulants, especially methamphetamine and cocaine, has been increasing and contributes to our growing overdose epidemic. Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), like buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX), are effective in reducing opioid use and preventing overdose – but does co-use of stimulants impact an individual’s initiation, engagement, and retention in MOUD treatment for their opioid use? And is there a difference between patients participating in a clinical trial and those in the “real world”?
While the search for medications to address stimulant use disorder remains elusive, contingency management (CM) is a behavior therapy for which there is strong evidence of effectiveness in improving treatment adherence among persons with stimulant use disorder. Despite its clinical effectiveness, treatment organizations have historically shown reluctance about its adoption due to a range of implementation concerns related to cost, logistics, philosophical incongruence, and policy barriers.
How might such barriers be overcome?
TA Center Resource Spotlight - Focus:PHI
Join Focus: PHI & MHTTC for an upcoming learning series!
To assist mental health professionals working in schools in understanding how federal health privacy laws apply to student mental health information, the MHTTC Network and the Center of Excellence for Protected Health Information (CoE-PHI) are hosting a two-part virtual learning series.
Learn more & register here.
New product: Arrest Warrants & Law Enforcement Inquiries in SUD Settings
The CoE-PHI has partnered with the National Latino Behavioral Health Association and the National Hispanic and Latino ATTC and PTTC to develop a Spanish Language resource for "Part 2" treatment providers, explaining how to respond to arrest warrants and law enforcement inquiries without violating federal privacy laws.
Visit SAMHSA’s other TA Centers:
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