(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed House Bill 3445, known as Alex’s Law, to encourage people witnessing a drug overdose to call 911.
The legislation ensures that people who seek emergency assistance for a person experiencing symptoms of an opioid overdose will not be arrested for any crime related to the use of drugs at the scene solely based on calling 911 for help.
The law comes after the death of a 25-year-old Naperville resident, Alex Green, who died of a fentanyl overdose. Green had been with friends at the time of the overdose, but no one called 911 out of fear of getting in trouble.
State Rep. Janet Yang Rohr filed the measure, which was co-sponsored by state Sen. Laura Ellman D-Naperville. Ellman said that the new legislation will hopefully save lives.
“As a result of someone calling 911 seeking medical assistance, that can not serve as the sole basis for that charge, this will encourage more people to get help when needed,” Ellman said.
State Sen. Don DeWitte R-St. Charles, raised some questions about the legislation. He said he worries it could lead to some narcotics dealers escaping punishment.
“My main question is, will the person who provided the drugs that harmed another person have to face prosecution when calling for help?” DeWitte asked.
Ellman reiterated that someone out on pre-trial bond, or on probation or furlough ,will not face the possibility of returning to jail if they call for help. A person who provides the narcotics that result in someone’s death can still face charges.
Narcotics overdose deaths have become a growing issue in the state of Illinois. There was a 30% increase in opioid deaths in 2020 as compared to 2019. A recent study by Northwestern University also found that a majority of those deaths came before the patient could be seen by a medical professional.
The measure goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.