Background: Facing increasing opioid-associated fatalities, a Good Samaritan Law (GSL) was passed by Connecticut (CT) in 2011 providing protections from arrest for possession of drugs or paraphernaliato individuals who call 911 seeking emergency medical services for an overdose. The impact of this law is unclear.
Methods: Between 6/1/2017-7/31/2017, a convenience sample of 108 participants who reported previously witnessing an OD were recruited from Syringe Exchange Programs and Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition community naloxone trainings in CT. Survey questions included demographic characteristics, basic understanding of GSL, fear of calling 911, whether 911 was called during a previously witnessed OD and years since witnessed overdose. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics and bivariate analysis.
Results: The median participant age was 48.5 years (IQR=35-56), and 68.5% (n=74) were male. Participants were 58% white (n=63), 23% black (n=18), and 17% Hispanic (n=25). Sixty percent (n=43) reported having a basic understanding of the GSL, 40% (n=43) did not. There was a significant negative association between GSL knowledge and fear of calling 911 (p=0.0002, OR =0.22 (95% CI 0.094, 0.500)), yet no significant association between GSL knowledge and having called 911 during an OD (p=0.556). No significant associations were found between GSL knowledge and either fear of calling 911 or having called 911 during an overdose following passage of the GSL (p= 0.490 and p=0.742, respectively). No association was detected between GSL knowledge and age or gender, but a significant association was found for race, with those classified as non-black being more likely to report knowledge of the GSL (p=0.043, OR=0.351 (95% CI 0.1239, 0.9946)). There was a significant association between actually having called 911 and race (African-American) versus other (p=0.043), yet no significant association between fear of calling 911 and race (p=0.862).
Conclusions: Though many participants reported knowledge of the GSL, no clear association was detected between GSL passage and witnesses reporting having called 911 after OD. These findings highlight the need for increased education on the guarantees of the GSL, with an emphasis on minority populations, as well as additional research on the factors that influence calling 911 following OD.