North Shore mom helps pass bill requiring help in overdose cases

MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - A North Shore mother is on a mission to save lives after the overdose death of her son just off the LSU campus last year. She has just helped shepherd through a bill that requires others to help if they have knowledge of someone in distress.

He was a gifted student at Mandeville High who dreamed of becoming a psychologist.

"I miss his personality, his sense of humor, the smile that would light up any room," said Mandeville mom Karen Morgan.

But just over a year ago, in the spring of his freshman year at LSU, Morgan's son, 19-year-old Jonathan, died from a drug overdose. His mother says he was with an acquaintance who could've made a difference.

"We believe the friend left him for over four-and-a-half hours," said Morgan.

She couldn't imagine that anyone would leave her gifted son to die.

"I met with the DA of Baton Rouge, and his assistant, and couldn't understand how there couldn't be more charges brought against him," said Morgan, who had to do something.

She contacted her state representative to try and get the laws changed to hold people accountable when they fail to help a friend or acquaintance passing out or dying from drugs they may have shared.

"I have been shocked at the parents who have come forward," said state Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville.

Across the U.S. last year there were 46,000 drug overdose deaths, hundreds in Louisiana.

Falconer drafted and just ushered through the Legislature a measure called the Duty to Assist bill, which imposes penalties against those who don't call when they have knowledge of someone on death's door.

"If there's a death, there are consequences," said Falconer.

"If a death does not occur, it's a $1,000 fine, up to one year in jail with hard labor. If a death does occur, it's a $2,000 fine and five years in jail," said Morgan, referring to the new bill about to become law.

It's a companion bill to the Good Samaritan law, which grants immunity to anyone who places a call for help that could save a life.

Getting the word out on the Duty to Assist bill is now one of Morgan's top missions - especially on college campuses.

"We met with LSU President F. King Alexander and his staff and proposed speaking at orientation to inform parents and students of this and the Good Samaritan bill," said Morgan.

It's hard to imagine losing your oldest son.

"It's indescribable...the pain..absolutely excruciating," Morgan said.

But she hopes a new law in his honor keeps other parents from going through what she's had to endure.

Morgan believes the frat house tragedy involving Matthew Gruver at LSU helped get lawmakers to approve the Duty to Assist bill. She said 10 people were in the frat house the night Gruver died who could've made a difference, but no one did anything.

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