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Advocates push for Good Samaritan 911 law

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TWC News: Advocates push for Good Samaritan 911 law
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RALEIGH -- Chad Sanders lost his sister seven years ago to a drug overdose.

“Shelley was just vibrant,” said Chad. “She was intelligent. She was compassionate.”

But Shelley was also an addict. She died in a college dorm room in North Carolina even though another person was there who could have called 911.

“When my daughter was found unresponsive, her friend panicked,” says BJ Sanders, Shelley's mom, “and eventually fled the scene without calling 911.”

The friend was a recent parolee, afraid he would be arrested if he called to help.

Now the Sanders family and other advocates want lawmakers to consider putting North Carolina on the list of states adding Good Samaritan 911 laws.

“Typically what they do is remove the possibility that those persons could be prosecuted for small crimes like possession of drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia,” says Corey Davis with The Network for Public Health Law. “Things that people are worried about might get them arrested if they call 911.”

Since 1999, accidental deaths due to poisoning in North Carolina have increased 309 percent, going from just 279 deaths to 1,140.

Right now, several states have some sort of Good Samaritan 9-1-1 law, and North Carolina is in the beginning phases of discussing this type of legislation.

Davis said by relaxing rules on minor crimes, deaths could be prevented.

“It is not going to increase drug abuse. It is not going to increase crime,” said Davis. “But it is a way to save lives.”

For the Sanders family, they believe a Good Samaritan Law would have given Shelley a chance for survival.

“She obviously made some bad choices,” said her mom. “But she was on the road to recovery and she was within a few days of coming home. And she was like, 'Mom, I am coming home. I am coming home', because she wanted to come home to get help. And unfortunately without those laws in place, she did not make it home.”

A legislative study committee is currently considering this proposal, and will decide if they want to endorse this sort of legislation to the full General Assembly.

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