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Georgia law protects those who call for help in overdose emergencies from facing charges

The Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law was passed in 2014.

ATLANTA — As overdoses across Georgia started to rise in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, community, local and state leaders knew something had to be done to slow the the number of deaths. 

In 2014, the legislature passed the Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law. It's important to note the bill was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the state House and Senate. 

While it's been on the books for now for almost nine years, there are a lot of people who don't know it exists or don't understand how the law can protect them.

The law provides limited immunity from arrest, charge and prosecution for possession of certain drugs and drug paraphernalia for individuals who experience a drug overdose and are in need of medical care, and for those who seek medical care in good faith for a person experiencing an overdose.

It also applies to another scenario regarding underage kids. The bill provides limited immunity from certain underage drinking offenses for minors who call for help in the event of an alcohol overdose. 

The 911 Medical Amnesty Law recently came back up in discussion following an overdose death in Gwinnett County. Gwinnet County Police said 17-year-old Rodrigo Floriano Mayen, was found dead from an overdose on Feb. 6.

The family tells 11Alive that he was found at a house on Andover Way in Tucker Monday morning by his parents after they got tips on social media that he was there. They said the teen arrested was his best friend.

Police charged the teen with concealing a death, a felony. If the teen had called 911 to try and get Mayan help, it's very likely he wouldn't have been charged in connection to the overdose. 

"Don't hesitate to call 911, because in many instances, if we can administer Narcan quickly enough, an overdose can be reversed and lives can be saved. And that's the reason why Georgia passed this law," Sgt. Jennifer Richter with Gwinnett Police explained. 

Sgt. Richter recommended anyone who is using or knows someone who is using to reach out and get Narcan and/or Naloxone. It is an effective, non-addictive prescription medication that reverses opioid drug overdose. However, it must be done quickly. A fentanyl overdose can turn deadly within two minutes. 

The numbers across Georgia are staggering. According to the Georgia Department of Health, between 2019 and 2021, fentanyl overdose deaths in teenagers between 10-19 were up 800%. When you look at numbers among adults, overdose deaths rose 224%. 

"Fentanyl is a dangerous drug that's also making its way into many street drugs that sometimes users don't realize," Sgt. Richter explained, adding "just the smallest amount even can be fatal. And those seconds of having that Narcan on-hand can mean the difference between life and death."


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