CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia leads the nation in overdose deaths per capita, but experts believe a law granting legal immunity to people suffering from an overdose could help drive down those numbers.
A report last month by the Trust for America's Health found West Virginia had 28.9 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010, the highest rate in the nation.
Trust for America's Health suggested West Virginia could help reduce those overdoses with a "Good Samaritan law" that would grant some degree of immunity to individuals seeking help for an overdose patient, either for themselves or someone else.
A 2011 study by the University of Washington found 88 percent of opiate users said they would be more likely to call 911 during an overdose because of the state's Good Samaritan law.
Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., already have such laws, which are intended to increase the likelihood of overdose patients or their friends calling 911 in the event of an overdose.
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said she plans to introduce a "Good Samaritan" bill when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 8.
She said House Health Committee Chairman Don Perdue, DWayne, and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, have expressed interest in the legislation.
"I think it's time," she said.
Fleischauer introduced a study resolution on an amnesty provision last year and said she received many positive responses on the idea. It passed the House but not the state Senate, so it was not adopted as a study topic during interim sessions.
But Dr. Dan Foster, a former state senator, presented a list of recommendations of the Kanawha County Substance Abuse Task Force to a joint meeting of the House and Senate health committees. Those recommendations included a Good Samaritan law.
Fleischauer said students at West Virginia University have encouraged her to introduce an amnesty law for overdose victims.