PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday signed into law a measure that protects drug users or witnesses who call 911 to report an overdose.
“To save a life first and not worry about anything else thereafter. First to save a life and in return, the deal we’ll make with them is we won’t prosecute them,” Gov. Chris Christie told reporters, including WCBS 880′s Levon Putney.
Christie said the other part of the Overdose Protection Act gives anyone the right to give the OD victim an antidote if they have one — without facing possible legal action.
“Saving the life first is the most important thing,” the governor said. “Drug abuse and addiction is a disease.”
Rock star Jon Bon Jovi joined the governor for the bill signing at a rehab center in Paterson.
“I hope that Gov. Christie’s actions here will cause other states to stand up and to pay attention,” Bon Jovi said. “It will truly affect the lives of many across our state and also affect many of the families.”
Bon Jovi’s 19-year-old daughter suffered an apparent drug overdose while at college in New York last year. She was shielded from prosecution under New York law.
Family members holding signs of their overdose victims attended the signing.
Overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey. In 2009 alone, 752 people died from it, CBS 2′s Don Champion reported.
Rick Spencer’s daughter, Christina, overdosed on heroin in November and died days later because the person she was using with did nothing.
“They told us that, ‘yes, we revived Chrissy but there’s no chance,’” Spencer told Champion.
Spencer said he’s hopeful this new law will save others from the pain he and his family experienced.
“A decision not to call 911 put her family and her friends and everybody through 12 days of, really, torture,” he told Champion.
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, Christie previously vetoed the bipartisan “Good Samaritan” bill, saying it didn’t focus enough on prevention.
“I’ve really thought about this over the last number of months. As a father of four children, there but for the grace of God go I,” said the governor.
Christie said he was persuaded by constituents, his wife and Bon Jovi.
The new law also allows training for family members on how to administer a FDA-approved drug for drug overdose emergencies. New Jersey joins New York and Connecticut, which have similar laws on the books.
“I pray it saves some kids, some adults,” Spencer said.
Experts say half, if not most, of drug overdose deaths happen when another user is present.
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