A bill now before the Legislature would put a drug that reverses the deadly effects of opioid overdoses into the hands of more Mainers. But although expanding access to naloxone is important, it’s just the first step to saving an overdose victim’s life.

Because medical issues can still arise after a user has been revived, that person still needs help. Others on the scene, though, may be too afraid of the legal fallout to call 911. That’s why it’s significant that the new proposal takes steps to encourage that call for emergency assistance – nobody should be punished for doing the right thing.

Access to naloxone is critical in a state like Maine, where both opioid use and overdoses have been on the rise. Known by its brand name, Narcan, the medication takes effect in two to five minutes, allowing the victim of an opioid overdose to regain consciousness and resume breathing.

L.D. 1686, enacted into law last year, authorized police, firefighters and opioid users’ family members to possess and administer Narcan. Friends of addicts would be added to that list under L.D. 140, sponsored by Democratic Waterville Rep. Henry Beck. (A similar measure has been put forward by Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, a Bangor Democrat.)

Narcan’s effectiveness at reversing the impact of an opioid overdose has been well documented – the antidote has a success rate of 80 to 90 percent. So there’s no question that the medication should be as widely available as possible.

But Beck’s measure also targets an issue that hasn’t gotten much attention in the Narcan debate: People often choose not to call for help during a friend’s overdose, for fear of inviting their own arrests for drug use. L.D. 140 would limit the criminal prosecution of those who call 911 for assistance.

Medical intervention is vital during an overdose, even when a victim has been resuscitated. Narcan can put someone who’s overdosed into acute withdrawal, with symptoms like vomiting, body aches, diarrhea and chills. By encouraging bystanders to be their friends’ good Samaritans, Beck’s proposal would ensure that more overdose victims get badly needed care.

Gov. LePage – who initially opposed L.D. 1686 – said last week that “professionals should be dealing with drug issues” and that he doesn’t support expanding Narcan access any further. And it’s unlikely that he’ll come out in favor of L.D. 140’s “good Samaritan” provision – he vetoed a similar measure in 2013, citing fear of creating an “unnecessary barrier for drug enforcement.”

Maine’s governor may not be on board with L.D. 140, but similar measures have received the backing of conservative Republican lawmakers in other states – not to mention police groups, like the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. They get it: When there’s a human life to be saved, that’s what should be the priority.