People are Afraid to Call 9-1-1 After a Drug Overdose Because They Don’t Want to Be Arrested

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Earlier today, Stephanie Bongiovi, daughter of acclaimed rocker Jon Bon Jovi, was arrested in Kirkland, NY after overdosing on heroin. A student at Hamilton College, Bongiovi was found by emergency personnel in her dorm room, unresponsive but alive. When police arrived, they arrested Bongiovi and another Hamilton student, Ian Grant, for allegedly possessing small amounts of heroin and marijuana. Now Bongiovi is recovering in a hospital, but she and Grant must return to court at a later date to face criminal charges for drug possession.

Bongiovi’s story made news because her father is a famous star, but thousands die every year without any attention at all. Accidental overdose has become a crisis in New York and around the country as the number of overdose deaths from both legal and illegal drugs has skyrocketed; there are more accidental deaths from overdose than from car accidents. Families are being devastated by the loss of loved ones to preventable overdose deaths.

Fortunately, most these deaths are preventable — if emergency services are contacted soon enough. But unlike Ian Grant, most people don’t call for help when witnessing an overdose. Why? Studies show that fear of arrest and stigma of drug use keeps people from calling 911. In short, most people don’t call 911 because they’re afraid of getting a ride in the back of a cop car instead of an ambulance. As a result, thousands of people lose their lives each year because they don’t get the emergency help they need.

by Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

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