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West Springfield billboard: See an overdose? 'Don't Run, Call 911'

Date: October 06, 2015

Summary:
A billboard on busy Route 20 in West Springfield is helping to fight the region's overdose epidemic with the  message: "Don't run. Call 911".

Body:
A billboard on busy Route 20 in West Springfield is helping to fight the region's overdose epidemic with the  message: "Don't run. Call 911".

Massachusetts state law has, since 2012,shielded "Good Samaritans" who call 911 to report an alcohol or drug overdose from criminal prosecution.

But the concern has always been that the public, especially those engaging in illegal and dangerous drug use, are ignorant of the law and still simply too afraid of law enforcement to call for help, despite the risk they and their companions might face. Promoting the Good Samaritan law and raising awareness was one of the  recommendations made by Gov. Charlie Baker's Opioid Working Group back in June.

The West Springfield billboard is part of a public-service announcement campaign by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America which promotes what it calls  out-of-home advertising and the Peter K. Ruhry Keys to Hope Foundation, said Stephen Hebert, vice president and general manger for billboard company Lamar in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts with  offices in Windsor, Connecticut.

Keys to Hope, based in New York City, helps the underprivileged and works to tell people that  alcohol and drug addiction is a treatable disease. The foundation was created by the Ruhry family in honor of their son and brother.

"I saw it and thought it would be a good message to get out," Hebert said.

Lamar is donating the space.

It's a national campaign. But the foundation helped him double check to make sure the message applies here and complies with Massachusetts state law.

The billboard went up Sept. 15. He couldn't say Monday when it is scheduled to come down.

A billboard like this one, 14-feet-by-48-feet on a high-traffic area would cost $2,000 a month. It faces west, toward Westfield, near the intersection of Sikes Avenue and Route 20. Route 20 is also known in that neighborhood as Westfield Street.

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