The Indiana Recovery Alliance is expressing serious disapproval over Senate Bill 499. The bill, if passed, would allow individuals to be charged with possession of narcotics even if they don’t have any on their person. If a person is either suffering symptoms of acute opioid overdose, or if they received an intervention drug to relieve their overdose, they could be charged with possession of a narcotic.
Project Coordinator for the Indiana Recovery Alliance, Chris Abert, says he believes SB499 would be a step back for the state of Indiana: “I think that SB 499 is a reversion into criminalizing people who use drugs; as opposed to assisting or collaborating with people who use drugs. The idea that you could get a felony conviction formally because you were resuscitated with Naloxone – as a standard – this is unfortunate.”
Senate Bill 499 was introduced and authored by Senator Jeff Raatz, a Republican from Centerville. Raatz’s district includes a portion of Dearborn County, which was profiled by the New York Times last year because of its unusually high incarceration rate. About 1 out of every 10 Dearborn Co. residents is in prison or jail, or on some kind of probation. The Times attributed the phenomenon to “a powerful prosecutor, hardline judges, and a growing heroin epidemic.”
Although Abert expressed opposition to SB 499, he said Indiana could make progress with House Bill 1438. This bill, authored by Representative Cindy Kirchhofer, would allow individual counties to approve their own needle exchange programs with limited state interference.
Abert says this would be beneficial to communities around the state of Indiana: “The other law, which is going to make it easier for counties to start syringe exchanges, is in many ways a step in the right direction. It appears that some of the bureaucracy gives more opportunities for localities to decide what is best for their community. We would like for it to go further.”
Abert says state legislators need to refocus on helping those with drug addictions rather than attempting to imprison them. Imprisoning people, Albert says, will only worsen the HIV and drug epidemic in the state: “We also again have 40 years of criminalizing people that use drugs; which has led to us having the largest opiate epidemic in history led to the largest HIV epidemic in the country, happening in Scott County.”
Abert says he hopes Indiana might consider a Good Samaritan Law in dealing with drug overdoses. Aberts says people should not have to fear they could be arrested for helping another person.