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Council to Help Blackwood Woman Push for Veto Override

Patty DiRenzo advocates for "911 Good Samaritan" law's passage.

Gloucester Township Council members have assured a Blackwood woman they will advance a resolution in support of her efforts to have the New Jersey Legislature override Gov. Chris Christie's veto of the so-called "911 Good Samaritan" law.

Patty DiRenzo met with Council during its workshop meeting Monday night to discuss the effort to have the Drug Policy Alliance's model resolution (see attached PDF) in support of the override adopted by local governments across the state.

The law would provide limited immunity to anyone who calls 911 to report an overdose. The Assembly approved its version of the bill in May, with the Senate following suit in August.

Council President Glen Bianchini told DiRenzo, whose son died of a heroin overdose in 2010, the resolution would be placed on the governing body's Nov. 14 meeting agenda. He suggested that Council advance the resolution not only to state legislators but also to the governor's office.

"I just think it would be a little more powerful not only going to our legislators, but directly to our governor," he said. "Not that he would do anything (to reverse his veto), but at least if everybody sends it to him, he'll see that there's support."

Councilman Dan Hutchison noted Assemblyman Paul Moriarty supports the "911 Good Samaritan" law and the movement to have Christie's veto reversed.

Christie vetoed the "911 Good Samaritan" law on Oct. 5. He told a crowd at a town hall meeting in Mount Laurel on Oct. 11 that he would not "give people who commit harms on other people a free pass just because they picked up a telephone and called."

Drug Policy Alliance and DiRenzo have been working ever since to see to it the bill they've fought together on since fall 2010 becomes law. DiRenzo indicated she has convinced the Magnolia Borough Council to place the resolution on its agenda.

Drug Policy Alliance activists plan to attend the Assembly's Dec. 3 session to push for an override, DiRenzo said. On Monday, DiRenzo pushed for Council's backing.

"The bill does not give immunity to somebody for distribution. It's for possession. Minor possession," she told Council, referring to Christie's comments on the veto. "If you have a certain amount on you, you're not going to get the immunity."

DiRenzo's son, Salvatore Marchese, died in Camden in September 2010 of an accidental heroin overdose. He was just 26 years old.

DiRenzo believes her son would still be alive today if the "911 Good Samaritan" law was on the books.

She told Council Monday night that there have been eight overdose deaths in New Jersey since Christie vetoed the bill. She added that in at least three of those cases, the individuals who died of overdoses were using heroin with others.

"We've already lost eight kids because of this veto," DiRenzo said.

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