Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey.

New Jersey needs to enact a 911 Good Samaritan law. Sadly, in October, Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed such a bill, which would have given people seeking emergency treatment for an overdose victim immunity from prosecution on certain drug charges.

My son, Salvatore Marchese, passed away on Sept. 23, 2010, from an accidental drug overdose. Sal wasn't just my son; he was also a devoted brother and, most important, a father. Sal was not alone when he passed, but whoever was with him was afraid to call 911.

The majority of overdose victims do not die until one to three hours after they have initially taken a drug, and most of these deaths occur in the presence of others. But fear of arrest and prosecution prevents many people from calling 911. Medical assistance is summoned in only half of all overdose situations. If these barriers were removed, countless lives could be saved.

Sal's death could have been prevented if those with him had called 911 for help - but they didn't. I lost my son, my daughter lost her brother and her best friend and my grandson lost his daddy, all because someone was afraid to dial 911. No one should be afraid to save a life by calling 911, no matter what the circumstances.

I am advocating for passage of this legislation not only to honor Sal, but for all the addicts who are struggling with this disease and unable to get the help they need and deserve. It is a disgrace that these children are unable to get proper treatment. Everyone has a right to live, but when the cards are stacked against you and treatment is unavailable, what do you do? Addiction is a disease and should be treated as a disease.

Let's save lives. Let's lift the stigma and stop judging people. Remember, addiction doesn't discriminate.

PATTY DIRENZO

Blackwood

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