Good Samaritan bill aims to protect drug users and prosecute dealers
Reps Eric Bendinfield, Chip Huggins, Russel Fry, and Phyllis Henderson spoke at the State House about the importance of combating opioid addiction.
Rep. Eric Bendinfield's son, Joseph, struggled with addiction to painkillers and heroine for severl years before his eventual death at the age of 23. He had two daughters.
Rep. Phyllis Henderson, a member of the national Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, said that the Good Samaritan bill will address the rise in opioid abuse in South Carolina.
By Brodie Putz & Danielle Kennedy
Representatives from the hardest hit drug areas of South Carolina met at the State House Wednesday to express their support for a new bill which is designed to help those suffering from addiction.
“No state is immune, no community is untouched,” said Rep. Russell Fry (R-Horry). “This isn’t just a legislation filing…this is a call to action for every citizen of this state.”
The bill discussed was S.83, a multifaceted amendment to section 16-3-30 of the 1976 code. If passed, it would provide authorities the ability to charge drug dealers whose opioids resulted in a user’s death with man slaughter. It also would protect users who call an emergency line in order to help another who is or has overdosed with temporary immunity from prosecution. Beyond this, the bill makes provisions for drug abuse education, abuse prevention and for other laws already in the legislation.
“This will allow greater access to ‘drug take back’ laws,” said Rep. Phyllis Henderson (R-Greenville). “These bills are geared towards educating kids in high school and college.”
Heroin and pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone, tramadol, hydrocodone and fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin, have been the leading causes drugs of opioid overdose deaths in South Carolina. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina has a recorded 554 opiate and heroin related deaths during 2015.
“We’re trying to think outside the box,” said Rep. Eric Bedinfield, R-Greenville. “We have to think like the people who are hurt, not just those fortunate enough to be spared.”
Bedingfield said he is passionately motivated to make sure these laws are passed because of tragedy in his own family. Last Easter Sunday, Bedingfield lost his eldest son to an opioid overdose.
“This is the year the legislature addresses this problem,” he said. “I’m not stopping. It might take 100 years, but this is a priority of mine.”
The Good Samaritan portion of the bill, already enacted in states like California, Vermont and Minnesota, allows a friend or a stranger to help an overdose victim seek medical help without being arrested for helping them.