Greenport BID discusses Good Samaritan law in seminar aimed to educate local businesses

The Greenport Village Business Improvement District hosted an educational seminar on the New York State 911 Good Samaritan Law on Sept. 9 at Greenport Harbor Brewery.

The event was geared towards both business owners and members of the public to educate them on the protections the Good Samaritan Law provides them. Attorneys Jordan Palatiello and Frederick Johs of Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles, LLP in Islandia presented information on the law.

Richard Vandenburgh, president of Greenport Village BID, organized the event to keep community members engaged and prepared in response to the six overdose deaths that happened in August on the North Fork related to a batch of fentanyl-laced cocaine.

“I want to make sure that BID members are as informed as possible, equipped with the tools to at least be able to be aware and respond if something like this were to happen again,” he said.

The New York State 911 Good Samaritan Law allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing, according to the New York State Department of Health.

According to the New York State Department of Health, in an overdose scenario the law protects individuals from arrest for possession of controlled substances (under 8 ounces). It also protects both adults and minors from prosecution for underage drinking, possessing drug paraphernalia and sharing drugs. 

The law does not protect individuals from possession of a controlled substance (8 ounces or more), sale or intent to sell controlled substances or if there is an open warrant for the individual’s arrest or violation of probation or parole.

Mr. Palatiello explained that a lot of the public is hesitant to call 911 because of fear of being arrested. Even some individuals trained in overdose rescue are reticent to call because of a distrust of the police.

During the presentation he suggested a solution to this issue may be to have the police department themselves advocate for the law and show the public they can be trusted in these circumstances.

“I think that the police department, specifically, they need to campaign or push for people to call 911 and advertising the Good Samaritan law, is probably the most effective way to do it because of the fear of the police,” Mr. Palatiello said.

The law is also tricky for businesses and business owners. Business entities such as restaurants, bars, hotels and retail stores were not protected under this law until August 2020. Now, business owners and employees can legally administer Narcan, the lifesaving nasal spray, but that doesn’t mean they are immune from investigation if police suspect the business is running drug operations.

Mr. Palatiello’s suggestion to business owners is to use measures such as cameras, drug testing and others to mitigate risk.

Mr. Vandenburgh said the Greenport Village BID is currently working on a campaign where they provide their business members with a box, similar to an automated external defibrillator box, equipped with Narcan so they can be prepared in case something should happen on their property.

“The only way you’re going to do any good is if you understand what’s going on, understand what the law is and have the tools to actually do something, if something were to happen,” Mr. Vandenburgh said. “I’m trying to just make it more tangible than just wringing hands and feeling bad for people.”