What is Wrong with New York’s Good Samaritan Law in Arresting Drug Overdose Deaths?

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In 2013, there were 2,309 deaths in New York that were attributed to drug overdose.

The age adjusted death rate for drug overdose for the state at that time was 11.3 for every 100,000 deaths. There was a very negligible 0.3 percent improvement in the drug overdose death statistics at 2,300 with the age adjusted death rate still pegged at 11.3 per 100,000 deaths. Nine out of 10 New Yorkers admit using illicit drugs even before they turned 18. Additionally, more than half of young New Yorkers use prescription opioid painkillers before progressing to the deadlier heroin. From 2004 to 2013, New York has posted a dramatic increase in the number of New Yorkers seeking drug treatment. For the first time in years, the percentage of treatment seekers has risen to 136 percent in a decade, most notably in Long Island with 242 percent and Upstate New York with 222 percent.

In September 2011, the state also passed the Good Samaritan Law which was intended to motivate drug dependents into coming out from hiding and actively seek addiction treatment. The law was supposed to make sure that individuals receive the best care possible without having to worry about legal repercussions. It was supposed to bring more relevant and more responsive substance abuse treatment protocols to those who are in most need of help. It was supposed to make sure that there will be no more deaths related to drug overdose simply because everyone is now guaranteed access to quality substance addiction treatment and drug rehabilitation without fear of being incarcerated or penalized for using drugs.

While the 2013 to 2014 drug overdose death figures did show an improvement, with 9 less victims for 2014 compared to the previous year, many would like to question whether the Good Samaritan Law is actively doing what it is intended to do. Or is it simply the fact that there are other factors not considered before that is affecting these numbers and the ability of New York’s drug rehab facilities to really provide adequate and appropriate rehabilitation care? Many would like to believe that the Good Samaritan Law is working for the benefit of every New Yorker. However, the figures seem to suggest otherwise. Or is there a problem in the reporting of these figures? Regardless, New York’s drug addiction center establishments must find a way to work with state officials in determining why the number of drug overdose deaths remain relatively unchanged 3 years after the enactment of the law.

It is worth noting however that the number of drug dependents actively seeking drug treatment has dramatically increased as of 2013, 2 years after the Good Samaritan Law was enacted. This is what is giving many drug policy makers and healthcare officials the sense of optimism that the Act is working. If not, then the number of addiction treatment admissions will not have been this great.

The question remains, however, as to what could possibly account for the dismal performance of the state in terms of curbing the incidence of drug overdose deaths.

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