Good Samaritan law would be wise choice

Published 7:29 pm Saturday, July 27, 2013

Every one of us likely has some kind of addiction — whether it is sweets, shopping or watching too much TV. These addictions affect our waistline, our bottom line and our social life.

Ann Austin

Ann Austin

But an addiction to drugs can be life altering in a very short period of time. It’s truly sad to see how people’s personalities can completely change when they let their addiction take control of their life.

Years ago, when I was still a writer at the Tribune, we covered the methamphetamine epidemic that was sweeping the Midwest. We talked to many families who had been affected — one father in particular made me cry with his story about a daughter who used meth one time at a party and was hooked.

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Within one year her husband left her. She became negligent of their child, so her child was taken away from her. She lost her home and continued to use family members for funds to buy drugs, saying that she needed the money for food or transportation.

Her family had no choice but to cut her off. It was not an easy choice to make.

I grew up in a community where there was quite a lot of drug activity — and I watched some of my friends from childhood make bad choices that altered their lives. They didn’t realize it at the time, but for some there was no going back.

That’s the thing about drugs — it’s really hard to quit once you get started. And the choices you make can impact your ability to have any choices in the future.

For years I was chairwoman of the Drug Education Task Force, and we brought speakers into the schools to help students understand the consequences of one choice.

One choice can cause you to lose your best friend, land you in prison or kill you. These aren’t threats — it’s the sad truth.

Deaths from drug overdoses continue to increase and have been increasing over the past two decades. In fact, overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day in the United States, 105 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments for the misuse or abuse of drugs. Nearly nine out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.

So, how do we create a community where our children don’t make those choices? For years we’ve educated them about the dangers of drug use, about saying “no.” All children are vulnerable — it doesn’t matter who their families are, if they get good grades or are a good athlete.

Research has shown that it takes a cultural shift to create any significant change. If you want to be a happier person, surround yourself with friends who are kind. If you want to lose weight, surround yourself with healthy food and opportunities for activity.

If we want to create a safer and healthier community, we can’t turn our backs on the reality that drugs are a temptation our children face. And we must address this as a community.

Not just law enforcement, parents or teachers — every single person our children encounter must help them see how valuable they are to this world, how their mind really is a beautiful thing and how they can make a better choice every single day of their life.

There are discussions going on in the state of Minnesota about the Good Samaritan law —where, if in fact someone had overdosed on drugs, people can call for help without the risk of being arrested. Sadly, people have died while their friends look on because of their fear of arrest. This is preventable.

Our children are too valuable to have their lives end in such a senseless way.


Albert Lea resident Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.