HOW THE AMNESTY LAW CAME TO BE

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - ONLY IN THE AJC: OPIOID EPIDEMIC -

The 911 amnesty law was the brain­child of Justin Leef, whose child­hood friend, Zack El­liott, was found dead of a heroin over­dose in the back­seat of his car in “The Bluff” in north­west At­lanta. El­liott’s friends ap­par­ently would not call 911 or drop him off at a hos­pi­tal out of fear that they would be ar­rested. So they aban­doned him.

In 2012, Leef re­ceived an in­tern­ship at the state Leg­is­la­ture and was as­signed to work for Ma­ri­etta Repub­li­can Sharon Cooper, who chairs the House Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. Just be­fore the 2014 ses­sion be­gan, he brought nine women to Cooper’s home. Most of them had lost chil­dren to drug over­doses, and all ar­rived car­ry­ing pho­tos of their dead sons and daugh­ters.

Cooper re­called one mother say­ing that friends of her son had dumped his body on her front lawn af­ter he over­dosed.“They didn’t want to get into trou­ble,” Cooper said.

Af­ter the par­ents left, Cooper said she felt com­pelled to spon­sor the leg­is­la­tion. De­spite some op­po­si­tion, the amnesty law was en­acted dur­ing the 2014 Gen­eral As­sem­bly and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The leg­is­la­tion has been cred­ited with sav­ing hun­dreds of lives.

“It’s one of the bills I’m most proud of,” Cooper said. “Min­utes mat­ter as far as some­one’s life be­ing saved.”

Justin Leef also feels some sat­is­fac­tion.

“I wanted to make some­thing out of Zack’s death,” he said.

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