AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, accidental drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the United States; and

WHEREAS, overdose mortality rates have increased significantly since the 1990s; and

WHEREAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), illegal and prescription drug overdoses killed more than 36,000 people in 2008, the last year for which firm data are available; and

WHEREAS, overdose deaths are more commonly attributable to heroin and narcotic analgesics (opiates derived from opium, and opioids, their synthetic derivatives) than any other drug category; and

WHEREAS, many overdose fatalities occur because peers delay or forgo calling 911 for fear of arrest or police involvement, which researchers continually identify as the most significant barrier to the ideal first response of calling emergency services; and

WHEREAS, establishing emergency "Good Samaritan" policies that provide limited legal protection from arrest and prosecution for people who call 911 in overdose situations would increase timely medical attention to overdose victims; and

WHEREAS, nearly 100 colleges and universities have adopted Good Samaritan policies that have proven effective in encouraging students to seek help in the event of an alcohol or other drug over¬dose; in 2005, researchers found that Cornell University's Good Samaritan policy led twice as many students to call 911 in a drug or alcohol emergency, while substance use remained constant; and

WHEREAS, five states—Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York and Washington—have enacted Good Samaritan laws that provide limited legal protection from arrest and prosecution for drug charges for individuals who call 911 in drug and alcohol overdose situations; and

WHEREAS, these Good Samaritan laws are expected to save countless lives; and

WHEREAS, similar lifesaving legislation is pending in several states across the country, including California, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will encourage cities and public health organizations to implement lifesaving, cost-effective overdose prevention programs that provide overdose prevention education, rescue breathing training and take-home naloxone directly to laypeople; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support establishing emergency "Good Samaritan" policies that provide limited legal protections from arrest and prosecution:

  • For individuals at the scene of a health emergency related to the acute toxic effects of controlled substance use, intoxication, withdrawal or addiction who have contacted 911 in good faith to request emergency medical treatment for a victim of drug toxicity or overdose; and
  • For individuals who have experienced an accidental or intentional drug overdose and who have been rendered aid by public safety personnel responding to a 911 call placed in good faith requesting emergency medical treatment; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call upon the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to urgently fund research to evaluate scientifically the effectiveness of overdose prevention interventions, and to develop model programs; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will address widespread concern about the substantial increases in opioid drug overdose deaths by working with governmental agencies to promote adoption of various prevention measures, including 1) education of patients, clinicians, pharmacists and emergency department staff members; 2) issuing opioid prescribing guidelines; 3) prescription drug monitoring programs; 4) legal and administrative efforts to reduce illegal prescribing; 5) prescription drug take-back programs; and 6) improve access to substance abuse treatment.