Thursday, June 28, 2018

Abbott's veto of Good Samaritan legislation responsible for hundreds of preventable overdose deaths

Texas legislators continue to discuss the wrong problems when it comes to addiction and overdoses, focusing on opiod overdoses and fentanyl - which aren't as prominent here as in other parts of the country - when the bigger problem in Texas is meth. (Most fentanyl deaths involve mixing it with heroin, and the black-tar heroin sold in Texas and California is too low purity to mix with fentanyl.) 

Digging into the data, Texas' drug addiction problem is less deadly than in the hardest-hit parts of the country, and more focused on speed than smack. Nationwide, heroin overdoses now outnumber gun homicides as cause of death, but in Texas, murders continue to slightly outpace the total number of overdose deaths.

IMO this obfuscation of state-level trends is happening because legislators are relying on law enforcement as experts instead of addiction researchers and public health professionals. Texas DPS and other agencies are picking up national memes and touting them, even if they don't track with Texas' experience.

That said, I was pleased to see that the committee is considering one solution that Grits worked hard on a couple of sessions back: the Good Samaritan law Gov. Abbott vetoed at the end of his first session as Governor in 2015. Reported the Austin Statesman:
[State Rep. Four] Price said it’s possible lawmakers could craft a new good Samaritan law, which protects people who call police to report a drug overdose from prosecution for some offenses. A similar bill passed the House and Senate with wide support in 2015, but was vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott because it did not “include adequate protections to prevent its misuse by habitual drug abusers and drug dealers.” 
New data presented by the Texas Department of State Health Services on Tuesday showed similar laws in other states have resulted in as much as a 15 percent drop in opioid overdoses in the past five years, despite nationwide increases. The laws also do not appear to increase the number of drug users, the data shows. 
“It indicates that there is some effectiveness if implemented and crafted effectively,” Price said. “That is something we should continue to review.”
Keep in mind that there were 1,254 overdose deaths in Texas in 2016 - 715 from meth and 539 from heroin. If a Good Samaritan law would have reduced that number by 15 percent, that means 188 people died that year because of Governor Abbott's ill-considered veto! That means hundreds of  lives would have been saved by now if Gov. Abbott had signed the law in 2015.

IMO, vetoing the Good Samaritan bill was one of Greg Abbott's worst decisions as Governor.


Anonymous said...

Abbott isn't my idea of a good governor, but he's not responsible. The people who overdosed are the ones responsible.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Abbott is responsible for vetoing a law that would have reduced the number of overdose deaths by 15 percent. That was him, no one else. And the result is more people died - ~188 more in 2016 alone.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the law should have been passed, but that still doesn't equate to responsibility. At best you can argue he should have a guilty conscious for not signing the bill. He did if you recall, sign the watered down bill for prescribing naloxone.

Further if you look at the Vermont law, it appears that 911 calls do not increase so your math (ok your guess) as to how many may have been saved appears to be greatly inflated.

I agree with many if not most of your positions, but I cannot agree to blame someone else for a personal decision. I'm all for making all drugs legal and getting the state out of the "mom" business, that would still make anyone who overdoses responsible for their own action.

Oprah not her said...


Using your logic, if you see someone drowning, you're not calling for help.
If you see a severe car crash, you're not calling for help.
If you see a burning house, you're not calling for help.

Because with your logic, no doubt, those people in the dire situation are responsible for their own actions which put them in that dire situation. They were probably overdosing at the time they were drowning, or crashing the car, or starting a fire.

The law doesn't remove responsibility from poor decision-making. It would allow for the overdoser (if they survive) to reflect on the poor decision and perhaps learn from (or teach others) the errors of their ways.

Anonymous said...

I did not say an individual shouldn't call for help, but calling for help isn't the same as responsible for being in the position. Again, I agree the law should have been signed, that doesn't make Abbot responsible for the deaths.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@12:21: Abbott's responsibility is for vetoing the Good Samaritan law. That was his personal decision.

If he had not done so, ~188 fewer people would have died from overdoses in 2016.

Anonymous said...

In the Navy when a sailor falls overboard and drowns the Captain may not have been at fault but it was certainly his responsibility to prevent it.

But then again we don't exactly elect good leaders into office or traditionally hold government employees of any flavor accountable for much.

As for whether he should feel guilty, as a Catholic his answer should be yes regardless of of he signed it, but then again he may be a better leader than he is a Catholic.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@1:46, you don't seem to understand the law he vetoed. It's ABOUT what happens when people call for help. Abbott's action prevents people from calling for help by continuing to subject them to criminal penalties when the Lege thought that was unwise. The result is that more people die. That's the whole point of this post.

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the 188 people comment (which is a made up number).

Grits would have us believe that unless you are absolved from any penalties, it's somehow OK not to help someone. If you truly believe the "point" of the post was to prevent people from dying you should be more careful in your words. What I got out of it was you're making Abbot responsible for these peoples deaths, he isn't. Once again, I agree he should have signed it, not the same as being responsible for the theoretical deaths.

The Captain analogy doesn't work, a Captain also has control over the sailors which makes him responsible for them, the Governor does not have that type of control over a (somewhat) free society, so he doesn't have that kind of responsibility.

He's Innocent said...

@anon 2:23

Your privilege is showing. You seem to have never been around the criminal system in Texas. See, when one attracts the attention of law enforcement in this state, it is damn near impossible to avoid being charged with something. Anything. And the more absurd, the more they seem to revel in it like pigs in slop. It's outright harassment most of the time.

I speak from personal experience. My family is justice involved and for the most absurd BS reason imaginable. I also have former LEO's in my family who agree today's LEO's are not to be trusted initially (very sad). So I speak from a position of close proximity to both sides of the law.

The emergency situation of an overdose requires a call to 911 to save someone's life. Anyone within geographical range, or as the original 911 caller, you are at risk of being arrested or harassed for BS, or worse. Just ask most young black males.

So please, while no, Abbott is not personally responsible for the overdoses, he IS responsible for the veto of a law that would have potentially saved 188 lives. Which is more important? Principal or lives?

Your dogged hair splitting is mind numbing.

Soronel Haetir said...

Why should we make preventing overdose deaths any sort of priority? I've honestly never understood this argument. I am simply not interested in saving people from themselves.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Soronel, you've supported the death penalty for repeat offenders who've never committed violent crimes (123-D). Your opinion on who should live or die should always be offered with that caveat - your opinions are an extremist outlier.

@2:23, the point of the Good Samaritan law was to prevent people from dying. The point of this post was to remind people whose fault it is that that law isn't in place now and to consider how many lives have been lost as a result.

Speaking of which, ~188 is not a "made up" number - I took the percentage the State Department of Health Services told the committee overdoses reduced in states that implemented the Good Samaritan policy, and applied it to Texas' overdose numbers to estimate how many lives would have been saved here. So it's not made up, the source is public testimony from a Texas state agency.

You're entitled to your opinion, but Abbott remains responsible for the consequences of his veto.

Anonymous said...

I'll remember that next time I see you jaywalking buddy ;)