Kansas is 1 of 2 states without a Good Samaritan law for drug overdoses; that could change

A bipartisan group of Kansas lawmakers has introduced a bill to include drug overdoses in the state’s Good Samaritan law.

Kansas is one of two states, along with Wyoming, that does not have a Good Samaritan law to help protect people who seek medical help for someone experiencing a drug overdose.

“What we’re doing is prioritizing the help, and the people that need help, more than we’re prioritizing the criminal aspect of this, which I think is long overdue,” said Hutchinson Democratic Rep. Jason Probst.

Probst is one of four lawmakers from across the state sponsoring the bill. The other sponsors are Democratic Rep. John Alcala in Topeka and Republican Reps. Nick Hoheisel of Wichita and Pat Proctor from Leavenworth.

The Good Samaritan bill is one of the latest measures proposed to help curb rising overdose deaths in the state, mostly due to fentanyl. Kansas was one of the last states to legalize fentanyl test strips last year.

“There’s still so much more to do. We really haven’t done anything for that father, that 15-year-old young man who wasn’t here this Christmas,” Proctor said, recalling the death of a friend’s son last year.

Advocates who work with people in recovery, and those who still use substances, have been calling for the bill’s passage for years.

Thomas Simmons is with the Kansas Recovery Network in Reno County. He’s also a person who experienced an overdose years ago. He’s been in recovery since 2019.

Simmons said when he experienced his overdose, no one called 911, and he could have died if the naloxone that was administered to him didn’t work.

“What it could have meant, if I had gone back into the overdose, would have meant my death,” Simmons said, “and with a lot of people that pass away from overdose, that is their experience.

“So, if we can get them the medical help that they need, without sending other people to jail, then we have a much better opportunity to get them treatment services that they need in order to heal, in order to survive, and begin their journey on recovery.”

The lawmakers have already received some support from law enforcement groups, which removes a potential major hurdle in getting the bill passed.

As the bill is proposed, if someone is in possession of a small amount of an illegal substance while calling for help, they won’t be prosecuted. Law enforcement groups said they currently support the bill because it doesn’t protect people who may be distributing or manufacturing drugs.

“It’s important people aren’t afraid to make the call; it’s important that people aren’t afraid to stay and help the person,” said Ed Klumpp, the legislative liaison for the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association and several other state law enforcement groups.

For Simmons and other advocates, the bill is about saving lives.

“My take on this,” Simmons said, “is how many people are dying that don’t have to because we are threatening the people that are trying to save them?”

— Kylie Cameron reports for Kansas News Service.


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