Understanding Ohio's Good Samaritan Law

By Emma Jenkins

Due to the possibility of criminal charges, there may be fear of calling 911 when someone overdoses. Fortunately, The Good Samaritan Law can protect you or a loved one in need.

This Ohio law, signed by Governor John Kasich in 2016, prevents police and prosecutors from pursuing minor drug possession charges against 911-callers and the person who overdosed. Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan says the law saves lives and prevents unjust arrests.

“We are starting to realize that we, the system, are part of the problem,” says Synan, who also helped form the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. “When we charge someone, especially for misdemeanors, we are allowing people to dig into a deeper hole.”

 Tom Synan, Chief of Newtown Police

Tom Synan, Chief of Newtown Police

In an overdose situation, after the 911 call is made, police or firefighters typically arrive on the scene first. Synan says they only ask questions to determine the type of first aid they will give to the person who overdosed. Police may ask what happened to the person, what drug they used, how much was used, and if Narcan (naloxone HCl, and emergency narcotic overdose treatment) was given.

Some forms of Fentanyl remain in the brain longer than others, and one dose of Narcan might not be enough to prevent death in that instance or others. That’s why calling 911 in the case of an overdose is critical.

“If Narcan is given and it doesn’t work, we want to make sure we can get the person more Narcan and medical aid so they do not die,” Synan says. “Often it takes multiple doses or CPR to revive the person.”

When paramedics arrive, the police will leave with no further investigation. However, The Good Samaritan Law does not protect individuals with quantities of controlled substance that suggest trafficking.

Chief Synan_Desk.JPG

Chief Synan was motivated to put an end to overdose deaths and fight the stigma of addiction after witnessing tragedy after tragedy affect the people he interacts with every day. Synan must regularly sit beside and support those who have lost loved ones to substance use.

He recalls a Newtown mother who lost her son to an overdose — his death might have been prevented if 911 was called immediately.

“Holding the hand of a mother who has lost her child, no matter how old they are, and feeling her hand shake in pain is a feeling I will never forget.”

Through his work with the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, Synan has partnered with Cincinnati and Hamilton County Health Departments to get Narcan into first-responders hands. His current goal is to further public education about the Good Samaritan Law.

Fighting overdoses and getting people into treatment will take collaboration, From officers, paramedics, family members, and those who are struggling with addiction, everyone can take peace in the fact that help is really a call away.