Delaware has a new 911 Good Samaritan law aimed at making it easier to help someone overdosing from drugs. The "Kristen L Jackson & John M Perkins Jr. Law," named for two young adults who died, gives legal immunity to people who seek medical assistance when someone is overdosing.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed the law Tuesday. It takes effect in 60 days.
The measure has special meaning for Dave Humes, who attended Tuesday's signing ceremony. His 24-year-old son died of an overdose last spring in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He later learned there was a chance the death could have been prevented, had the people around his son immediately called for help. Instead they left him in his car in a hospital parking lot.
"They didn't ring the bell for the emergency ward, they didn't leave, and call and say, 'Look at the parking lot.' And he sat there for about an hour," Humes said. "By the time someone discovered him, he was dead."
Hume hopes Delaware's new law will prevent other parents and individuals from going through what he did.
Dr. Marc Richman, assistant director of Delaware's community mental health and addiction services, thinks it will make a difference because the rule protects someone calling for help from criminal prosecution.
"For those that may be with the person who is in the midst of an overdose, and they're perhaps using with them, you know, fear comes about," Richman said. "And folks can get awfully paralyzed, as to 'Do I call 911 and get help for the person that I'm with? Or do I get out of Dodge because I don't want to get arrested because I have drug paraphernalia, or I'm high myself or I have charges I'm waiting to be picked up for?'"
The new legislation pertains to situations involving underage drinking but not for all types of illicit drug charges.
Delaware's not the only state with such a law on the books. New Jersey enacted something similar in May.
"Often it's just that phone call that's really a difference between life and death," said Ellen Lovejoy, a spokeswoman with the New Jersey Department of Human Services. "If an emergency responder can get to a person overdosing in a quick period of time, they can save that person's life. A person left unattended while overdosing is likely to die."
Pennsylvania has a law pertaining to underage drinking but not for other types of illicit drugs.