The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), Dec. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. The death of a Connecticut seventh grader from an apparent fentanyl overdose has renewed calls for schools to carry the opioid antidote naloxone. The 13-year-old student in Hartford died Saturday after falling ill in school two days earlier. The school did not have naloxone, which is known by the brand name Narcan. But now city officials are vowing to put it in all schools. Fatal overdoses among young people in the U.S. have been increasing amid the opioid epidemic but remain relatively uncommon. Credit: Matt Rourke

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We should have compassion for the Bangor woman, Jessica Shepard, who saved her daughter’s life by administering Narcan after the toddler allegedly ingested drugs. Shepard had Narcan nearby, knew how to use it, and saved her daughter’s life. Nevertheless, she is being prosecuted for child endangerment.

The prosecutor at her hearing wrongly said that her case could test the Good Samaritan law, which provides immunity from prosecution if a person calls 911 in the event of an overdose.

Even under the Good Samaritan expansion that takes effect on Aug. 8, child endangerment offenses do not receive immunity. The expansion provides immunity to a person experiencing an overdose and people at the site of an overdose who are “rendering aid” from arrest and prosecution for all drug crimes and most non-violent crimes.

While the Good Samaritan expansion wouldn’t cover Ms. Shepard’s case, the prosecutor still has enormous discretion to drop the charges. The prosecutor can treat this like an accident and choose not to prosecute Jessica Shepard.

Separating families through incarceration does irreparable harm to the child and to the parents. Formerly incarcerated women experience high levels of food insecurity, poverty and unemployment. Their children experience adverse outcomes, including to their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Punishing Jessica Shepard isn’t going to make life for her or her daughter better. Our goal should always be to avoid incarceration and punishment, and offer families the support they need to succeed.

Chasity Tuell