Drug Overdose and Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law

Good Samaritan laws are meant to protect someone from legal liability when providing help to a person in distress. Ohio has had a Good Samaritan Law since 1977 to protect people from malpractice lawsuits when providing emergency medical and non-medical care to someone in need. This protection is not just for off-duty medical professionals but also for any citizen. This law does not protect someone who deliberately acts in a way that they know can cause further harm, or who accepts money, gifts, or any form or payment for helping.

Do you have to help someone in distress? Ohio does have a “duty to rescue” rule and requires you to help someone in distress if:

  • You are responsible for the welfare of a child. This includes parents, guardians, teachers, and any adult responsible for the child.
  • Your actions caused the danger.
  • You started to help – you must continue to help unless the situation changes to put you in danger.

In 2016, Ohio revised its Good Samaritan laws (Ohio Revised Code Section 2925.11) to encourage people to call 911 when they see someone who overdoses. What this law does is provide immunity for minor drug possession, amounts considered to be a misdemeanor or fifth-degree felony, to individuals who seek emergency help for themselves or another person during a drug overdose. The 911 operator receiving the overdose call can help explain this immunity if asked. You cannot be arrested or prosecuted if:

  • Law enforcement found the drugs as a result of seeking medical assistance for a drug overdose.
  • The person has a drug test and receives referral for treatment from an accredited addiction treatment program or professional within 30 days.
  • The person provides documentation, when requested by a prosecutor, verifying the date and time of the drug test and receiving the referral.

This immunity can be used twice and people on parole or probation are not eligible. The immunity is limited to possession of controlled substances. House Bill 205 is currently in the Ohio Legislature and, if approved, it will expand immunity to include drug paraphernalia.

Peer Recovery Support Services: Helping Child Welfare Families with Substance Use Disorder

Parents involved with child welfare that have substance use (SUD) are often engaged with multiple systems including child welfare, SUD treatment, and the courts. To help families navigate these services and requirements, they can be assigned a Family Peer Mentor (FPMs). What is an FPM, what do they do, and are they helping families with parental SUD stay together?

An FPM is someone in long-term SUD recovery1 who also has experience with the child welfare system. They also complete a certification training program1 to learn how to apply their own experiences to help other families. The FPM is the family advocate, connecting the family to needed services and as emotional support promoting sober parenting. The relationship between the FPM and the family is collaborative with the shared goal of achieving parental sobriety and family safety and stability. FPMs are uniquely positioned not only to help families navigate the child welfare system, but also to provide the hope and motivation needed to achieve and maintain sobriety.

To better understand how FPMs help child welfare involved families, a study2 was conducted of the services and outcomes of 28 FPMs involved in the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) in Kentucky. Each FPM was partnered with one child welfare caseworker, and this FPM/caseworker team served 12-15 families. This study shows the importance of FPMs in promoting family unification and parent sobriety:

FPM Study ResultsThe study also highlights the importance of supporting FPMs’ own sobriety as they transition from child welfare client to an employee supporting families through a very stressful situation. Of the 28 FPMs, 10 had a relapse or other ethical/policy violation that resulted in their removal; however, the remaining 18 FPMs realized stability and growth either with the child welfare agency or with other, more advanced positions.

With the goal of parental sobriety and family unification, the use of FPMs shows excellent promise. Kentucky START and programs using FPMs or peer supporters are not only helping families; these programs are keeping more children from entering out-of-home care while also giving individuals in recovery an opportunity for steady, full-time employment that appreciates their child welfare and SUD experience to help others.

1Click here for more information on The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) certification for Peer Recovery Supporters in Ohio: (https://workforce.mha.ohio.gov/Workforce-Development/Job-Seekers/Peer-Supporter-Certification).

2Huebner, R. A., Hall, M. T., Smead, E., Willauer, T., & Posze, L. (2018). Peer mentoring services opportunities and outcomes Huebner 2018.pdf. Children & Society, 84, 239–246.