As the country’s opioid epidemic worsens, the New York Police Department is undertaking a campaign to encourage people to report overdoses.
The NYPD public service campaign aims to communicate to drug users, and witnesses, that they won’t be arrested if they call 911 in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose emergency.
“This campaign will help New Yorkers understand the protections of the Good Samaritan law for those suffering from an overdose or calling to help someone in need,” Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill told WNBC. “This is about saving lives. And this campaign will do just that.”
The state’s promotion of its 911 Good Samaritan Law will include ads on social media, subways, buses and ferries.
The campaign will be focused on areas like Staten Island and the Bronx, where drug use is highest.
The law does not protect callers from being arrested if they have an open warrant, or for distribution of drugs.
In 2016, there were 1,374 overdose deaths in New York, more than any other year on record. Health officials said every seven hours a New Yorker dies from an overdose.
Drug overdose death rates around the country have also continued to rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with more than 52,000 Americans having died of an overdose in 2015, the majority caused by opioids.
Since 2010, 30 states have experienced increases in opioid deaths. CDC data concludes that the rise in overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015 are most likely attributed to heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
In 2016, nearly every state enacted legislation addressing opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs, and in 2017, the majority of states renewed legislation on this issue.
In addition to immunity from arrest when reporting overdoses, it is now widely possible and legal for non-medical professionals to possess and administer naloxone without a prescription.
Naloxone, a so-called rescue drug that counteracts the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose, has no abuse potential.
In some places, even librarians are learning how to administer naloxone.
The CDC’s latest report showed that as many as 30,000 overdose victims were saved by naloxone between 1996 and 2014.