ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Senate Tuesday unanimously passed a bill aimed at reducing heroin overdose deaths, by arming first responders with an effective antidote and granting limited immunity to Good Samaritans who report a drug overdose in progress.
The bill, dubbed Steve's Law, is a response to the growing number of heroin overdose cases in Minnesota.
If passed by the House and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, the bill would increase supplies of Naxolone, the opioid antidote already carried by many paramedics and law enforcement officers.
It would also encourage people to phone in an adverse drug reaction in progress, without the risk of being arrested and prosecuted for the drug evidence at the scene.
To the measure's chief author, Sen. Chris Eaton of Brooklyn Center, it's highly personal.
Sen. Eaton's daughter Ariel died in 2007 as the result of an accidental heroin overdose. Eaton reminded colleagues Tuesday that the man who witnessed her daughter's overdose fled the scene rather than call 9-1-1 to report it.
"This is just to get people like the young man who was with my daughter to call 9-1-1 instead of hiding things, and denying to the people around what was going on," Eaton remarked.
Eaton, a registered nurse, said the bill is not designed to grant blanket immunity to all drug crimes, but only to those that could arise from the overdose situation.
"If you honestly believe somebody with you is overdosing on a drugs, you can call 9-1-1 for help and you are immune from prosecution for what is at the scene, for what is there, for the drugs present, for the paraphernalia."
The law is named for Steve Rummler, who died in a heroin overdose in 2011. Rummler's fiancé Lexi Reed Holtum, who heads the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, issued a statement thanking the Senate for passing the bill.
"For Steve, and others too numerous to mention, this is a giant step forward. It is time to reverse the number of overdose deaths."
For Rummler the path to heroin began with an addiction to prescription painkillers, something that is very common among heroin abusers according to Sen. Eaton.
Governor Dayton, when asked about the bill Tuesday, said he'd like to study the issue more before passing judgment. The bill is still working through the House committee process.