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Heroin Bill Seeks Immunity for Overdose Calls: "You're Weighing a Conviction Versus a Life"

And there are requirements for this immunity, which could also apply to a person who is experiencing an overdose as well. The bill specifies possession limits; if an individual has more than three grams of heroin, for example, he or she would not be protected from charges. Additionally, if law enforcement has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain, arrest or search a subject -- separate from the overdose call -- this legislation would not block that.

Opponents, Spencer notes, "say we are being soft on crime. We are not.... If you are a dealer, this law doesn't apply to you."

His proposal comes as the Missouri Recovery Network is raising awareness about its report showing heroin use has dramatically increased in the state -- with deaths due to the drug more than tripling in just four years.

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"We are hoping that it removes barriers to calling 911," Brenda Schell, executive director of the Missouri Recovery Network, says of the proposal.

She says, "What we're talking about is a group of kids who are either experimenting or using heroin and when one shows signs of an overdose...kids just scatter and let the person die...because they are fearful of prosecution."

Spencer, who has seen students firsthand struggle with drug use -- and then tragically lost an eighteen-year-old last year -- says, "Sometimes it's their first time, and their body just goes into shock. Heroin is so cheap and so easy to get ahold of. It doesn't take much to convince a young mind to try something that's that dangerous."

It's not about protecting criminals, he adds. "This gives a...very small window of immunity to allow them to call 911 to save a life."

Here's the draft legislation.

House Bill 296

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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