FOX Chicago News / Tisha Lewis
Springfield, Ill. - The Illinois State Senate gave the green light to legislation that would save lives from drug overdose.
Lawmakers said friends are watching friends die from drug overdose. They fear if they call for help they will face prosecution.
The goal of the bill is to save lives of drug addicts. It passed unanimously and could become law by the end of next month.
State Senator Ira Silverstein said more people reportedly die from a drug overdose in the state of Illinois than from car accidents.
“Today, Senate Bill 1701 was passed in the Senate,” Silverstein said. “It gives immunity to individuals who call 911 when they discover an individual that has overdosed.”
Silverstein describes his bill as life-saving legislation.
“I think it's very important that an individual who finds someone overdose and calls 911 that he or she should not be liable or arrested for any type of drug related offenses,” Silverstein explained.
The bill will make Illinois one of three states that provides immunity from prosecution for drug possession when a person seeks aid for a friend's overdose.
New Hope Recovery Center's Intake Director Jim Butler said time and time again friends watch friends die, instead of calling for help.
“We've been involved in instances like this where at our program in the Western suburbs where folks have died under these exact circumstances that we're talking about right now, needlessly,” Butler said.
The immunity is only granted for those without a prior criminal offense.
Butler said that safeguard could interfere with saving lives.
“If someone is going to try and save a life,” Butler said, “Whether they have a previous arrest record or not, I don't think should come into play.”
Critics fear the bill lets the bad guys go and provides a loophole for drug dealers.
There are safeguards in place to prevent abuse of the law including a limit on the amount of drugs in someone's possession.
Illinois joins the states of Washington and New Mexico which already have similar laws.
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