'Good Samaritan Law' effective in Mississippi, could save lives - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Good Samaritan Law' effective in Mississippi, could save lives

(WMC Action News 5) (WMC Action News 5)

Heroin usage in the Mid-South has been on the rise the last few years, but so has heroin deaths. Starting today, a new law in Mississippi could help cut down on overdose deaths. 

The Mississippi Medical Emergency Good Samaritan Law is effective July 1, and will allow someone under the influence of drugs to call 911 without fear of prosecution when they or a friend need help. It will also allow family members, or friends of those with an addiction, to obtain and administer an opiode antagonist (heroin antidote).

Meghan Dawkins, a mother and former heroin addict, played a large role in shaping the law, working directly with Mississippi State Senator David Parker to pass the law.

“It turned out better that I could have ever dreamed. I couldn't feel anymore blessed than I do right now,” Dawkins said.

Dawkins knows about overdose deaths all too well. She’s lost several friends to drug overdose. Many she says that could have been prevented if someone had just called 911.

“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.

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.

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

“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.”

She promotes the phrase “don’t run, call 911” and hopes people begin to take responsibility for their friends like she says she always did.

“Meghan spoke on how heroin altered her life and how she is now advocating for those she knows that are still struggling with addiction,” Senator Parker said at a bill signing event Tuesday.

Similar laws have been passed in other states that have proven to be effective. This is a huge step in the right direction for the fight against prescription opiate and heroin abuse in the state, and a victory for those in desperate need of treatment.

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

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,” Weirich said . “The ‘good samaritan' laws, and those steps that other states have taken, are steps in the right direction.”

To read the entire bill click here.

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