How the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects you if you witness an overdose

Tuesday is International Overdose Awareness Day.

Ontario Provincial Police are reminding you that it is okay to get help in a time of crisis.

Some people may be hesitant to call police if someone they are with is having an overdose, but the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA) does provide some protection and allows an individual to call 911 and get immediate help.

OPP Const. Kenneth Gray tells CTV Morning Live that if someone needs help, first responders can provide it.

"We want them to be able to call us as well as emergency services to get help," he said. "That's the underlying thing, to get help to these people. We carry naloxone on us all the time now, so we are able to help."

The GSDOA provides protection against charges of possessing drugs for your own use and against charges of violating conditions of your parole, bail, probation or conditional sentence for a simple drug possession charge. It does not protect against charges of trafficking, for other offences or if there is an outstanding arrest warrant.

Gray said the law is meant to encourage people who witness overdoses to call 911 and stay with the person who is experiencing an overdose, without having to fear they could face legal consequences of their own.

"The reason why it's important for them to stay is that they will give us and the emergency services vital information as to what the person took, quantity, or such mixture. It's vital information the medical field needs to be able to counteract the agent," he said. "We want them to understand there's a law out there to protect them to a certain degree.

"People are scared to call in because they think they'll get in trouble," he continued. "Or, they'll call in and leave and we're left with finding someone who can't articulate what's going on."

Earlier this year, Ottawa police, and health officials in Leeds and Grenville and Renfrew County all said they had seen a spike in overdoses.

A vigil was held Tuesday at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street to acknowledge International Overdose Awareness Day and to help reduce the stigma around drug use. Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, Coun. Catherine McKenney and others were in attendance.

Ottawa Public Health has information on its website about what to do to prevent drug overdoses or what to do if you witness one.

Alongside Mayor @JimWatsonOttawa, Councillor @cmckenney, Dr. @VeraEtches and numerous community groups such as @momsstoptheharm and @CAPSACanada, we are here at the Human Rights Monument to acknowledge @OverdoseDay.#RaisingAwareness#StigmaEndsWithMe

— Ottawa Paramedic Svc | Service paramédic d'Ottawa (@OttawaParamedic) August 31, 2021