Minnesota Senate Passes Overdose Protection Bill

Updated: 04/08/2014 11:02 PM
Created: 04/08/2014 10:46 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- In 2011, Steve Rummler died of a heroin overdose.

His death came after a long-battle with prescription drug addiction that stemmed from a lingering back injury.

Steve's fiancé, Lexi Reed Holtom, believes Minnesota lawmakers could do more to protect people from sharing the same fate, and so she took her fight to the state capitol, teaming up with a senator who lost his own daughter to a heroin overdose.

And now with heroin use on the rise in Minnesota, lawmakers are considering a new approach to helping those most in need.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Senate voted unanimously in favor of what's known as “Steve's Law.”

The bill is a Good Samaritan law, essentially meaning that anyone who calls 9-1-1 because someone else is having a drug overdose cannot be charged with possession of a controlled substance or paraphernalia.

"It's never about just arresting people, it's always about trying to help them as well,” said Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi. “People should never be dissuaded from calling 9-1-1 when there is a life-threatening emergency."

The bill still has to go before the House, but supporters and law enforcement alike hope the change would encourage more people to come forward during emergencies, because they said too often people won't call simply out of fear of reprisal.

"There is a lot of fear involved with that,” said Jenine Koziolek, an outreach specialist with Fountain Centers treatment facility in Albert Lea. “So yes, I think it relieves them a little bit in saying, ‘I'm not necessarily going to get in trouble here, rather I'm saving my friend's life.’"

The bill would also allow more people to administer emergency anti-overdose medication, provided they have training.

The medication is currently used almost exclusively by first-responders, but with heroin overdoses on the rise statewide, supporters said we need more people to be prepared.

"We have seen narcotics related overdoses, actually several, in the past year,” Sheriff Amazi said. “I would say it's probably going to continue, if not rise."

Experts said at the end of the day, the bill is all about protecting people.

"There's still consequences to chemical use,” Koziolek said. “We don't want those consequences to be death."