LODI (WKOW) -- Two men are charged with homicide in the death of a teen who overdosed on heroin back in July. Experts say it's a case that proves the need for a "Good Samaritan" law in Wisconsin, to prevent overdose deaths.
According to court documents, Jake Adler, 17, was found passed out and gasping for air on a Lodi patio on the morning of July 12th. He died before paramedics could arrive, and an autopsy revealed a heroin overdose was to blame.
A criminal complaint states that Adler's friend Lars Atkinson, 18, was with him that night. Atkinson told police they went to Madison to buy heroin, shot up and drove back to Lodi. Atkinson says Jake passed out in the car and he carried him into his home. Atkinson told police he tried to wake Jake up several times but couldn't, so he watched TV and went to sleep. The next morning, Atkinson was seen dragging Jake out onto the patio, which is where he was found. In nine hours, he never called 911.
Atkinson has been charged with homicide in Jake's death, along with Milton Moore, 22, of Fitchburg. Authorities say Moore provided the heroin that killed Jake that night.
Jake's father Tom Adler says that while his son did get into some trouble, he was a good kid and just got into the wrong situation in July. Adler says he wishes Atkinson would have done something that night.
"It's hard because every day you think about [Jake] and then you see this kid walking the street," says Adler. "All I think is my son's in the morgue and this kid's still free."
Addiction specialists say many overdose deaths can be prevented, which is why a group of experts is working on legislation in Wisconsin-- "The Good Samaritan Law" that would give limited immunity to someone who calls 911 during an overdose. It would clear a user for minor charges like drug possession, but not something more serious like homicide, manufacturing or distributing drugs.
Similar laws have been successful in 10 other states.
"When they had done surveys, 88 percent of users were aware that the legislation existed and were more likely to call 911 because of it," says Randy Brown, a committee member and a doctor treating addiction. "Getting to the right care prevents death, so for deaths like this to continue to happen is really a tragedy."
Tom Adler says he supports the idea of legislation to encourage users to call 911, and thinks if it were in place now his son may still be alive. But the legislation is far from ready to go. It could be years before we see lawmakers vote on it.
Atkinson and Moore are expected to appear in Columbia County court later this month.
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