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NJ gov signs overdose law, Bon Jovi applauds it

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, front, signs into law a good Samaritan bill intended to assure that a fear of prosecution doesn't get in the way of medical help for overdose victims, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Paterson, N.J. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, front, signs into law a good Samaritan bill intended to assure that a fear of prosecution doesn't get in the way of medical help for overdose victims, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Paterson, N.J.
Singer Jon Bon Jovi, center, stands next to Pamela Sanquini, left, whose son Matthew overdose at the age of 20, and Jill LaZare, right, whose daughter Brooke overdose at age 23. Singer Jon Bon Jovi, center, stands next to Pamela Sanquini, left, whose son Matthew overdose at the age of 20, and Jill LaZare, right, whose daughter Brooke overdose at age 23.

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — Just a few months after his daughter survived a drug overdose, Jon Bon Jovi joined New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Thursday for the signing of a law to encourage reporting of overdoses so victims don't end up dead.

Bon Jovi called the law a lifesaver and encouraged other states to do the same.

"I hope that Governor Christie's actions here will cause other states to stand up and to pay attention and also to follow in his footsteps," Bon Jovi said before accompanying the Republican governor on a visit with patients at a drug rehabilitation center.

The New Jersey law seeks to assure timely medical treatment for overdose victims by encouraging people to seek help without fear of being arrested for drug possession.

Bon Jovi's daughter overdosed in a dorm at Hamilton College in upstate New York last year. Prosecutors dropped drug charges against Stephanie Bongiovi and another student under that state's good Samaritan overdose-reporting law.

Bon Jovi, who has a home in New Jersey, did not bring up his daughter's case at the bill-signing, and neither did the governor. In a December interview, Bon Jovi said he was shocked to learn of her overdose.

"She was doing great. Then a sudden and steep decline. Hopefully, we caught it when we did and that's the end of it. But who knew?" said Bon Jovi, a father of four.

The governor and singer told patients during their visit they should be proud of their recovery.

Christie has called the war on drugs a failure and has pushed for mandatory treatment for all non-violent drug offenders.

As elected officials, the governor said Thursday, "it's our obligation to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent tragic deaths from drug overdoses."

Families who have loved ones who died of drug overdoses also attended the event, many holding up pictures of those they lost. If people aren't afraid to call 911 in overdose cases, they said, more lives will be saved.

Taking a two-pronged approach to preventing drug overdose deaths, the New Jersey law also provides civil, criminal and professional immunity to health care professionals who prescribe or administer any FDA-approved treatment for drug overdoses. Lay people who administer antidotes in an emergency will also be protected.

Legislative sponsors of the bill say New Jersey is now the 12th state to provide good Samaritan protections for those who report overdoses, and the 11th to give legal immunity to those who administer antidotes.

The law extends protection even to those on parole and probation from being arrested, charged or prosecuted for small amounts of drugs when reporting an overdose.

The measure includes the core of two bills that the governor, a former federal prosecutor, had previously vetoed. He insisted that the law spell out that no immunity will exist for drug traffickers. Protections were also removed for people with restraining orders against them and those facing forfeiture of assets.

"This is a real triumph of public health policy and we thank Gov. Christie and the Legislature for working so hard to come to an agreement," said Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group for drug policy reforms.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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