PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — Jon Bon Jovi, whose daughter suffered an apparent drug overdose last year, plans to join Gov. Chris Christie when he signs into law Thursday a good Samaritan bill intended to assure that a fear of prosecution doesn’t get in the way of medical help for overdose victims.
The New Jersey law will shield from prosecution both overdose victims and those seeking medical help for them if they act in good faith.
The issue hits close to home for New Jersey native Bon Jovi. The rocker’s daughter apparently overdosed on heroin in a dorm at Hamilton College in upstate New York last year.
Prosecutors dropped drug charges against Stephanie Bongiovi and another student under New York’s own Good Samaritan 911 law, which was designed to reduce overdose deaths by encouraging people to call 911 without fear of being arrested for drug possession.
Bon Jovi, who has four children with wife Dorothea Hurley, told The Associated Press in December he was surprised to learn of his daughter’s overdose, but that he hoped with help she would move forward.
“I’m shocked as much as the next parent with this situation and had no idea,” said Bon Jovi, 51. “But then you surround them with best help and love and move on, and that’s where we’re at with it. Steph is a great kid. … She was doing great. Then a sudden and steep decline. Hopefully, we caught it when we did and that’s the end of it. But who knew? I’ve got three more to come.”
Christie, who has called the war on drugs a failure and pushed for mandatory treatment for all non-violent drug offenders, planned to sign the legislation at a drug rehabilitation center.
Taking a two-pronged approach to preventing drug overdoses, the law will also provide civil, criminal and professional immunity to health care professionals who prescribe or administer any FDA-approved treatment for drug overdoses. Lay people who administer antidotes in an emergency will also be protected.
New Jersey will become the 12th state to provide good Samaritan protections and the 11th to shield those who administer antidotes.
The new law extends protection even to those on parole and probation from being arrested, charged or prosecuted for small amounts of drugs when reporting an overdose.
The measure includes the core of two bills that the governor, a former federal prosecutor, had previously vetoed. He insisted that the law spell out that no immunity will exist for drug traffickers. Protections were also removed for people with restraining orders against them and those facing forfeiture of assets.
“This is a real triumph of public health policy and we thank Gov. Christie and the Legislature for working so hard to come to an agreement,” said Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group for drug policy reforms.