Knowledge of Good Samaritan Laws and Beliefs About Arrests Among Persons Who Inject Drugs a Year After Policy Change in Baltimore, Maryland

Kristin E. Schneider, Ju Nyeong Park, Sean T. Allen, Brian W. Weir, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objectives: Delivering and receiving prompt medical care during an overdose are imperative to ensure survival. Good Samaritan laws encourage people to call 911 during an overdose by providing immunity from selected drug arrests (eg, low-level possession). However, it is unclear whether persons who inject drugs (PWID) are aware of and understand these laws and their implications. We examined awareness among PWID of the 2015 Good Samaritan law in Maryland and their beliefs about whether they could be arrested for calling 911 or having an overdose. Methods: We surveyed 298 PWID in Baltimore, Maryland. We estimated the proportion who knew what the Good Samaritan law addressed and who believed they could be arrested for calling 911 or overdosing. We used a multivariate model to assess the association between harm-reduction services and knowledge of the Good Samaritan law or beliefs about getting arrested for calling 911 or overdosing. Results: Of PWID, 56 of 298 (18.8%) knew what the Good Samaritan law addressed, 43 of 267 (16.1%) believed they could be arrested for calling 911, and 32 of 272 (11.8%) believed they could be arrested for having an overdose. After adjusting for demographic characteristics, accessing the syringe services program was associated with accurate knowledge and the belief that PWID could be arrested for calling 911; however, training in overdose reversal was not associated. Conclusions: Most PWID were unaware of the Good Samaritan law; this lack of awareness is a barrier to preventing overdose deaths. Educating PWID about Good Samaritan laws is essential, and such education should include police to ensure that law enforcement is congruent with Good Samaritan laws and does not perpetuate mistrust between police and PWID.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-400
Number of pages8
JournalPublic health reports
Volume135
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Keywords

  • Good Samaritan laws
  • harm reduction
  • opioids
  • overdose
  • persons who inject drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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