Opioid, alcohol safe-harbor bills could save lives

WEST CHESTER, Oct. 12 – Two bills introduced by state Rep. Carolyn Comitta could help people overdosing from opioids or who are in danger after drinking while underage.

The two bills would extend the immunity protections to victims in either case, including cases of self-reporting and Good Samaritan intervention. Comitta was joined during a news conference today in West Chester by state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, an early co-sponsor of the bills.

“The opioid epidemic has proven to be the biggest public health crisis in a generation,” said Comitta, D-Chester. “Too many among us have witnessed firsthand its ravaging effects on our family, friends, neighbors and children.

“Victims have been overlooked far too long and deserve compassion rather than punishment for making their best attempt to survive.”

Daley is the state representative for Mary Ciammetti, whose son died from alcohol poisoning after a party.

She said these protective bills could have saved Christian Ciammetti’s life.

“When we look at the legislation introduced in Harrisburg, we have to ask ourselves: will it make a positive impact on Pennsylvania and will it help foster a healthier, better life for our constituents,” Daley said. “In this case, the answer is most undoubtedly yes. These bills will save lives. No one should have to choose between acting to save their life and admitting to a mistake that millions of people can make.

“As Mary aptly points out in her campaign, ‘Don’t stall, just call.’”

The legislators also were joined by West Chester University’s Assistant Dean of Students Chris Brenner and Director of Wellness Promotion Sherry Mendez.

“Committed to helping every student thrive, the University’s Office of Wellness Promotion and the Office of Student Conduct understands the importance of coming together as community partners to defeat the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse,” Brenner said. “Providing punitive immunity to the person who calls for medical help for a friend, as well as for the person in need of help, can be regarded as a vital step toward saving a life. All of us need to come together to do our part.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 2,235 opioid-related deaths in Pennsylvania at the close of 2016. Comitta said that equally shocking is the number of alcohol-related deaths amongst underage drinkers, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, totals more than 4,300 annually. 

“These numbers are unacceptable. As a member of the General Assembly, it falls upon us to take action to ensure overdose victims are given every possible opportunity for a second chance,” Comitta said.