HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — On Sept. 1 a new law takes effect meant to prevent overdose deaths. Texas HB 1694, also known as the Jessica Sosa Act, will provide defense from prosecution for people who call 911 to help a person who overdosed, even if they have a certain amount of drugs on them.

First responders across Texas have reported drug overdose calls have gone up 49% during the pandemic.

“We typically see between two to three overdoses a day,” said Paramedic Rene Perez, with South Texas Emergency Care Foundation. “A lot of times we find these patients by themselves and typically you know they were with a group, but you know they panic, they call 911 and then they leave and then we find the patient in this condition.”

Perez said overdose patients who are left behind by others have led to a tragic outcome.

“We have come across some that have expired from the overdose because they have been left alone,” Perez said.

According to the National Library of Medicine, laws like the Jessica Sosa Act can prevent drug overdose deaths by 15%.

“We’re not encouraging drug use, but we know it’s out there, we want the people who are doing it — if they have a medical emergency — to call 911,” said Daniel Ramirez, EMS Chief for the City of Pharr.

The law provides a defense for certain drug offenses if three things are met:

  1. They are the first to call 911.
  2. They remain on scene until first responders arrive.
  3. They cooperate with medics and law enforcement.

“They need to be patient, but they need to stay on the phone because we have Emergency Medical Dispatchers and they are going to walk them through the step and make sure that person is okay,” Ramirez said.

And as the Jessica Sosa Act does become law on Sep.1, first responders hope this will get more people to do the right thing, and prevent drug overdose deaths.

“Even if this bill only saves one life, then it’s one life saved, but I think it going to make a big difference,” Perez said.

“It’s going to give us an opportunity for people to not feel that they are going to get in trouble when they call 911, and that’s the most important part,” Ramirez said.