|DA John Morganelli|
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that drug overdose deaths have doubled between 1999 and 2010. Many of these are from prescription painkillers, which have killed more than 15,500 people in the United States since 2009. In addition to the fatalities, emergency department visits for prescription painkiller abuse have doubled in the past 5 years to nearly half a million.
In Northampton County, the problem is acute. According to the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, 149 people died in Northampton County from drug overdoses between 2009 and 2013. By contrast, in Lehigh County, there were only 40 deaths. In Monore County, there were only 32 deaths.
Northampton County has a larger number of colleges than Lehigh or Monroe County.
Morganelli calls the proposal, which still allows the prosecution of drug dealers and drug induced homicides, "reasonable legislation to encourage individuals who are aware that someone is in harm's way as a result of a drug overdose to contact 911 without fear that the good deed could land them in jail."
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have introduced bills this year to minimize the number of drug overdose deaths. Morganelli added that 19 states already have some form of amnesty.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett signed legislation in 2011 that provides legal amnesty to underage drinkers who call emergency authorities to help a friend with an emergency, alcohol-related, illness.