In February, we published “The Heroin Epidemic,” a cover story investigating heroin addiction in St. Louis.
What exacerbates this issue is Missouri’s lagging behind in the legal realm. Missouri was the last of all 50 states to pass the implementation of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The PDMP requires the prescriptions of opioids to be entered into a registry. The addictive nature of opioids can lead to heroin addiction because heroin is cheaper and easier to get. Supporters of the PDMP argue that the registry will allow potential addicts to be identified so that heroin addiction can be prevented.
However, a much simpler bill, the “911 Good Samaritan Bill” had not even been put into action. The Good Samaritan Laws allow a person overdosing on an illegal substance or witnessing an overdose to call for help without being prosecuted, as long as they only are in possession of small amounts of that substance and are not trying to deal the substance. 37 states in the country have passed similar bills.
Fortunately, the process of discussing a “911 Good Samaritan Bill” for Missouri is underway. The bill, known as House Bill 294– but as Bailey and Cody’s Law to the families of heroin victims– has been passed by Missouri representatives. The bill was read to the Missouri Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 24, 2017.
CHS history and government teacher Debra Wiens has been playing an active role in trying to pass this bill, and was in touch with bill sponsor Representative Steve Lynch.
Wiens strongly believes that this bill is lifesaving. With her help, we quickly realized that this bill was not just necessary, but paramount; by the next month we were heading to the state capitol, Jefferson City, to put our passionate words into action. Rep. Lynch had asked Wiens to bring us to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
We entered the Senate Lounge at 2:00 PM. However nervous we may have been, we were quickly reminded that we weren’t going in front of the Committee for ourselves.
A middle aged woman introduced herself as the mother of a deceased heroin addict. She spoke to us about the death of her teenage son, and more importantly, how easily his life could have been saved if someone had called 911 earlier. 17 hours he laid there in the basement, abandoned, for fear of incrimination.
Rep. Lynch had several witnesses testify. Just like the mother’s story, each testimony was personal and emotional. We listened to a teenage girl recount her story of being too scared to call 911 when her friend was overdosing. Her friend died, and at 17 years old — the same age as us — she has to live with that guilt.
More parents recounted personal experiences, and a lawyer turned recovering addict even spoke. However tough to follow, it was time for us to step up to the stand.
A key idea that we conveyed in our testimonies is that although we have lived pretty sheltered lives, our parents have always instilled in us the idea and importance of helping other people. In putting together “The Heroin Epidemic,” we heard stories that caused us to realize the extremity and ubiquity of the epidemic; it is even impacting Clayton, a place generally thought to be free of such problems.
In writing the piece, we knew that we wanted to create an investigative yet heartfelt article which would not only remain in words, but linger in the minds of the readers, prompting action to help the many community members impacted by heroin addiction and use.
We carried that mission straight into the Senate Lounge.
We spoke representing the teenagers who want to save the lives of their peers, and the journalists who have investigated the epidemic, and seen how a Good Samaritan bill is a pressing need.
This experience affirmed that the heroin epidemic is not just a St. Louis issue. It is robbing lives all across Missouri. A Good Samaritan Law will not save all those lives, but even just one being saved is better than none. That one life could be the friend of the 17 year old, or the parents’ children. All because of the ability to dial 911.
On May 2, Bailey and Cody’s Law was read and passed by the Missouri Senate in an executive session.
It is a universal concept that life is the most important thing. Preserving that is exactly what this bill will do.