In Kansas, Overdosing Could Result In Jail Time. A Measure From Both Parties Aims To Stop That

The advancement of new legislation addressing drug overdoses in states has begun. (Getty Images/Drew Angerer))

TOPEKA: One of the two states where individuals who overdose on drugs and require assistance may be arrested is Kansas. Kansans would be able to seek possibly life-saving medical care without worrying about consequences thanks to new legislation.

The House passed House Bill 2487, an overdose prevention bill that would establish a Good Samaritan statute for cases of opioid overdose, 120-0 on Thursday. The bill is now sent to the Senate, where it will probably pass.

The bill would exclude anybody who call emergency medical services or law enforcement for assistance when someone needs life-saving intervention after an overdose from drug and alcohol charges. This is a big departure from the way things are done now, when someone calls for assistance during an overdose for themselves or someone else, they risk being arrested.

Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, testified in favor of the change in January, saying, “We should be empowering Kansans to save lives without a second thought, not leaving them afraid to make the choice between saving someone’s life or making a phone call that could send them to jail.”

Kansas is one of the few states in the union without this kind of protection, according to DeWeese. Wyoming is the other state without a Good Samaritan opioid overdose statute.

The bill is one of many pieces of legislation that Kansas House members have supported to address the state’s fentanyl overdose problem. It’s unclear how far fentanyl has traveled in Kansas.

In 2021, there were 600 drug-related overdose deaths recorded by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were linked to around half of the drug-related overdose deaths.

According to the state’s most recent data on child mortality, there will be nine child fentanyl-related deaths in 2021. There were 29 suicide fatalities and 32 child killings in the same year.

Under the direction of Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, KBI agents have issued numerous warnings regarding the risks associated with fentanyl and have made it the focus of multiple campaigns, albeit they frequently mix it with immigration-related issues.

Republicans in the state, including Kobach, have fostered the myth that illegal immigrants are using a “open border” to smuggle fentanyl into the country. According to National Public Radio research, the bulk of fentanyl is actually brought into the nation illegally through authorized ports of entry.

In his run for the current job, Kobach made a connection between fentanyl trafficking and southern border security, promising to halt drug gangs from smuggling fentanyl into Kansas from across the border. Since then, Kobach has continued to hold a staunch anti-immigration position; most recently, he issued a warning against “Mexican drug cartels.”

Dan Hawkins, the Republican speaker of the Kansas House, released a statement on fentanyl on Friday.

Hawkins declared, “House Republicans are dead set on our mission to tackle the fentanyl crisis that is killing our Kansas youth and lowering community safety.” “We’re setting the standard for policy that combats the atrocities of this deadly drug, which have become more apparent in recent times because of the porous southern border.”

House Bill 2613 would create a DARE fund and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) educator under the Attorney General’s office. The DARE educator would teach pupils about fentanyl and other opioids as part of the DARE curriculum in Kansas public schools.

A previous iteration of the bill called for the DARE program to receive about $300,000 from the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) fund. The transfer was challenged by representatives of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust money, which uses the KEY money to pay for a variety of early development initiatives. Under the modification of Representative Henry Helgerson, the provision was deleted.

“There is concern that if you start down this path with the demand transfer out of the KEY fund, other legislatures may do this or the Senate may do this,” the speaker said, adding, “I am not playing games about not trying to do the money.” Helgerson stated during the bill’s House discussion on Wednesday. “We’re attempting to safeguard the KEY fund.”

The Office of the Attorney General calculated that the educator’s salary and associated costs would require $125,000 from the recently established DARE Fund. The DARE program would be expanded to include instruction about fentanyl and other opioid substances using additional funding from the DARE fund. Members of the House supported the legislation by a vote of 105 to 15.

By Caleb Anderson

Caleb, a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling, has dedicated his career to bringing the latest news to the public. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to unbiased reporting, He navigates the dynamic world of journalism, covering a wide range of topics from local events to global issues. Caleb's insightful articles reflect his dedication to keeping readers informed and engaged in the ever-evolving landscape of news.

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