Cops and Addicts; Strange Bedfellows Indeed
I was at a panel talk the other day held by Home of New Vision and the Washtenaw Recovery Advocacy Project (WRAP) called “Recovery Is…” At this talk there were two members of the Washtenaw County Sheriffs Department in attendance and one was a speaker. Marlene Radzik, Commander, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Dept. and Jonathan Waddell, Training Manager at Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.
Honestly I have not had any interactions, either good or bad, with a police officer since I got sober. When I was drinking/drugging most of my experiences with the police ended with me in silver bracelets. That’s what happens when you drink and drive.
For some reason I felt compelled to stick around after the talk and speak to these two trusted servants of the Sheriffs department and I’m so glad I did.
The Good Samaritan Law
There is a law called The Good Samaritan Law which protects a person legally if they help someone who is injured from legal ramifications if they should cause that person harm in some way. For example, if someone is choking and you give them the Heimlac Maneuver and break their rib in the process, you can’t be sued. Seriously. There have actually been lawsuits like this which is why the law was passed. Kind of a d*ck move to sue someone who just saved your life, wouldn’t you say? But I digress…
There is another law out there called the 911 Good Samaritan Fatal Overdose Prevention Law . In short, if someone is overdosing, if you get them help the police can’t arrest you. It is only a law in twenty states. Michigan is not one of those states. So what ends up happening in States like Michigan where there isn’t a law to protect someone using drugs to help someone who’s overdosing?
- The people who are high leave them and hope for the best
- The people who are high drive and drop them outside an emergency room and hope someone walks outside in time to find them alive
Hey, let’s not blame the addict here. THEY ARE HIGH. They aren’t making rational choices. Not to mention many are on probation and if they get caught using, they violate that probation and go to jail. They can’t call 911 anonymously because there aren’t any pay phones anymore, and cell phones can be tracked. They can’t walk the guy overdosing into the emergency room because the ER staff may call the police. Basically they are between a rock and a hard place.
If Michigan passes the 911 Good Samaritan Law, how many lives would be saved? Why haven’t they passed this law??? Simple, arresting addicts is a higher priority then saving their lives. Sad, isn’t it?
I know it seems strange since so many of us have had run in’s with the law but I personally spoke to Marlene and Jonathan from the sheriffs department and they assured me that they were more concerned with saving the life of a person overdosing than arresting the person getting them help. In fact I was guaranteed that they WOULD NOT get arrested.
Lately there has been a shift in many cities police departments. They see the futility of jail –> get out —> break law to get drugs –> jail… the cycle is never ending. 84% of inmates are in prison for drug related crimes. We can’t incarcerate our way out of this drug crisis. The Gloucester police department has started an innovative program to get addicts help. I pray that more cities follow their lead.
The bottom line is if you live in Washtenaw county and you know any active addicts SPREAD THE WORD that getting another addict help won’t lead to jail. If you are currently an active addict. CALL 911 IF SOMEONE IS OVERDOSING! Please!!! You can’t get high enough to wipe away the guilt if your inaction leads to another person’s death. Do the right thing. There won’t be any consequences.
Peace, Love & Sobriety,