Heroin addict pushes plan to avoid drug deaths

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) - A recovering addict believes we can dramatically cut the number of heroin deaths, just by getting people to call 911.  He believes we need a new law to get people to do the right thing.  FOX 2`s Chris Hayes explains how there`s already a powerful drug that can save overdose victims.

It sounds almost like an antidote, the way paramedics explain walking in on dying heroin users & waking them up.  They`re saving victims with a drug called Narcan.  Paramedics are not using it as much as they`d like, because too many people refuse to call 911.

Mother, Kathi Arbini said, "Heroin.  Heroin killed our son."

Arbini recently celebrated her son Kevin`s 25th birthday.  He died when he was 21.

She added, "As a parent, especially as a Mom, you never want your child to be forgotten.  That's the most important thing to me and what a good boy he was."

Kevin Mullane loved kids and he loved the outdoors.  Mom said he dreamed of working at the botanical gardens.  Heroin kept him away.

Arbini explained that her son, "said he was clean for 6 months, but I don`t really think I believe that, but if he believed it, you know, that`s fine."

Kevin died when he told people he was clean.  Arbini said a friend helped him get the heroin.  She said kevin then died in that friend`s house.

She said, "I feel like they could`ve called 911, but they chose not to. In my opinion it was for fear they could get in trouble, because he was dead over 12 hours before they called."

Chad Sabora was an Assistant Prosecutor for Cook County, in Chicago, before his heroin addiction cost him everything.

Sabora explained, "When somebody overdoses on heroin, nobody wants to call for help because they're going to get charged with possession of a controlled substance. The person dying can get charged for the drugs that are in their body."

Sabora is pushing a new law in Missouri, that's already law in Illinois.  It's called the 911 Good Samaritan Act.  It would allow a user who`s witnessing an overdose, to call 911 without fearing prosecution.

As it is now, he says people instead chose to dump bodies.  Or, he says, they chose bizarre home remedies like putting an overdose victim in an icy bath.  Sabora added, "None of those of things work. They`re all urban myths. The only thing that works is a drug called Narcan."

Maryland Heights Paramedic Greg Meyer told us he`s saved several people, using Narcan.  He told me that he saved two people during one call.

Meyer explained, "Actually still had the syringes in their arms, unconscious not breathing, and we were able to administer this and they were both... breathing on their own by the time we got to the emergency room."

Chris Hayes followed up, "Just from that shot?"

Meyer answered, "Just by administering that medication?"

Arbini keeps alive the good memories of her son and hangs onto the hope that her family's story will save someone else`s child.

There are many amazing stories about what Narcan can do for people dying on heroin.  Paramedic Meyer told me another story about a person they intubated, then shot with Narcan.  He said the patient woke up and started to pull the tube from his throat.

I also talked with four police officers, all who deal with drug cases.  Each one of them told me they`re in favor of anything that could save lives.  And the 911 Good Samaritan Act gives limited immunity.  The act would not let a drug dealer off the hook.

There`s a strong underground movement attempting to get Narcan into the hands of more than just paramedics.  We`ll be following up on that in future reports.

For more information about efforts involving Narcan and the 911 Good Samaritan act, across the United States, visit Naloxone.

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E-mail chris.hayes@tvstl.com

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