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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a law designed to reduce preventable overdose deaths by encouraging people to call 911 if they witness a drug overdose, without fear of being arrested for drug possession.

The Good Samaritan 911 law seeks to address research that finds a majority of people who witness a drug overdose are hesitant to call 911 because they fear being arrested for drug possession, The Huffington Post reports. The article notes that in 2007, more than 27,000 people nationwide died from accidental overdoses. In many states including New York, the number of accidental overdose deaths outnumbers automobile-related deaths.

New York’s law provides some protection from charges and prosecution for possessing small amounts of drugs. It also protects against being arrested for misdemeanor possession of residual amounts of drugs or paraphernalia. The law does not protect people who have large amounts of drugs for sale, or who are engaged in drug trafficking.

The bill received bipartisan support, and was passed unanimously in the Senate and almost-unanimously in the Assembly, according to the article. Good Samaritan laws have been passed in other states including New Mexico, Washington State and Connecticut. A number of other states are considering such laws, including California, Illinois and Nebraska.


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