Blackwood Woman Pushes '911 Good Samaritan' Bill
The Assembly version of the bill was approved in May.
A Blackwood woman is hoping you will help her push the so-called 911 Good Samaritan bill across the finish line in the New Jersey Senate.
The bill (S-851), which would provide limited protection to anyone who calls 911 seeking medical help in the event of a drug overdose, is scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday.
Patty DiRenzo hopes you will join her in contacting the committee members to convince them to move the bill to the full Senate for a vote.
"We just want to save lives," she said on Friday. "We're not asking for much here. You know, everybody deserves a chance to live."
DiRenzo feels strongly that her son, Salvatore Marchese, would still be alive today if the law existed in September 2010, when Marchese was found dead in her car in the shadows of a Camden high-rise of a heroin overdose.
Police do not believe Marchese, 26, was alone when he overdosed the night of Sept. 22 or early on Sept. 23, DiRenzo said, based on evidence found in and near her car. Nor does it appear his body went unnoticed after he took that fatal dose of heroin, she said.
"It takes one to three hours for (a heroin) overdose victim to actually die," DiRenzo said. "So, there's a one- to three-hour time period where if anybody stumbled upon them and called, even if they thought they were dead, they could be saved by naloxone."
Naloxone is a drug used to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system following an overdose
The Assembly version of the bill, which legislators have dubbed the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, was overwhelming approved on May 24 by a vote of 67-8—there were four abstentions.
"I was in tears. I was just so elated," DiRenzo said.
Five states—New York, Illinois, Washington, New Mexico, and Connecticut—have already enacted "Good Samaritan" laws for drug overdoses, according to Drug Policy Alliance.
DiRenzo was among those who testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of the bill (A-578). She plans to go to Trenton this Thursday to offer her testimony once more.
But, before she and others go before the legislators later this week, she is hopeful the public will take a few moments to contact Senate Judiciary Committee members' offices to show their support for the bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is Nicholas P. Scutari (firstname.lastname@example.org), chairman; Nia H. Gill (email@example.com), vice chairwoman; Christopher Bateman (firstname.lastname@example.org); Gerald Cardinale (email@example.com); Michael J. Doherty (firstname.lastname@example.org); Joseph M. Kyrillos (email@example.com); Raymond J. Lesniak (firstname.lastname@example.org); Kevin J. O'Toole (email@example.com); Nellie Pou(firstname.lastname@example.org); Paul A. Sarlo (email@example.com); Bob Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org); and Brian P. Stack (email@example.com).
Below is an unedited copy of the email DiRenzo sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee members:
Senators -- I write today to urge you to help save lives in New Jersey and vote yes for Bill S-851 which is presently scheduled to be heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21st.
This life-saving legislation would establish a Good Samaritan law encouraging people to seek emergency medical assistance for drug overdoses by providing limited legal protections for those who seek such help. As I am sure you are aware, overdose is a major public health problem and the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey. We are losing too many children due to accidental drug overdoses and we must take a stand in helping to save lives. This Bill, if passed, can save so many lives. We need to make a difference and move forward with Bill S-851 so that we can encourage people to seek emergency medical assistance for drug overdoses.
My son Salvatore Marchese passed on September 23, 2010 from an accidental drug overdose. Sal was not alone when he passed, but whomever was with him was afraid to call 911 for fear of arrest. Sal was left alone to die. The majority of overdose victims do not actually die until one to three hours after they have initially taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others. Although most overdoses occur in the presence of others, fear of arrest and prosecution prevents many people from calling 911. As a result, medical assistance is summoned in only half of all overdose situations. If these barriers were removed, countless lives could be saved.
Sal was loving, caring, compassionate and just a beautiful soul who unfortunately struggled with addiction. I can't bring Sal back, but I can help to save lives in honor of the beautiful person he was. This is the second year that Sterling High School has awarded a scholarship, The Salvatore J. Marchese Scholarship. This scholarship was established as a memorial for Sal, who graduated in 2002 from Sterling High School. Sal went on to graduate at the top of his class from Pennco Technical School. The scholarship is awarded to a student who demonstrates kindness and compassion to others, has displayed a great work ethic and who is planning on attending a technical school - all the traits of which Sal had.
Please, vote yes on June 21st to Bill S-851 and help New Jersey save lives.
Blackwood, NJ 08012