Mississippi Mom fights for law to help prevent heroin overdose deaths

Mississippi Mom fights for law to help prevent heroin overdose deaths

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Heroin usage is growing in the Mid-South, especially in the suburbs, but it does not discriminate. The number of overdose deaths, as a result, are alarming.

In 2014, there were 59 heroin overdose deaths in Shelby County. That's five times the number of deaths that happened in 2010.

In Mississippi, the Bureau of Narcotics investigated 136 overdose cases in 2014. Not all resulted in death and not all were heroin overdoses, but a new law in the works could help lower the number of deaths.

"It's scary, but at the same time you're not all there when it's happening," said Meghan Dawkins, describing how it feels to watch a friend overdose on heroin.

Dawkins is a former drug addict who got clean after her son tested positive for the drug when he was born.

"I started taking pain pills when I was 24 and was physically addicted to them really quick and then heroin was cheaper than pain pills," she said.

Dawkins has been clean for several years now and is making it her life goal to educate everyone about heroin addiction.

"Parents don't want to talk about it. Parents don't want to believe that their kids are doing heroin. They're getting younger and younger," Dawkins said.

And the younger heroin users get, the less likely anyone is to call for help if a friend overdoses.

"I've had a few friends in the last couple of years that have lost their kids to this and they were left at the scene," said Dawkins. "I always called 911, but I know a lot of people are scared to call 911."

It's why Dawkins, who lives in Southaven, has been working with Mississippi State Senator David Parker to pass the good Samaritan law, which would help victims of drug overdose to seek medical assistance without fear of criminal prosecution.

"People make disastrous choices in their lives, like illegal drug use. When someone overdoses, they may hesitate to call for emergency medical service because of fear of prosecution, or someone in the room with them may fear legal repercussions of calling for help," Parker said in a news release. "Senate Bill 2242 would create immunity for someone seeking treatment for overdose. There is time to turn their lives around, and as a Christian, I believe time for God to touch their hearts. While they may have broken the law, at that moment they are a fellow human being in need of medical treatment and this legislation allows them to seek help without fear."

"It's going protect the witnesses of the overdoses, that if they'll call, they won't be charged," Dawkins added.

Two weeks ago, the bill passed in the senate and is now in the hands of the House of Representatives.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirch is in favor of a similar law in Tennessee. She says the growth of heroin overdoses in the last five years is alarming.

"Tracking it back to whoever it was that supplied that heroin to them is the problem and getting the circle of friends to talk and cooperate is the problem," said Weirich. "The 'good Samaritan' laws and those steps that other states have taken are steps in the right direction."

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