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[ATG] Lifeline Law protects young people, encourages medical intervention
Start Date: 3/31/2014Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 3/31/2014
Entry Description

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. – Because underage drinking and binge drinking by young people create unsafe and medically hazardous situations, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and other advocates visited Wabash College today to remind students that the Indiana Lifeline Law exists to protect young people from arrest, if first they seek help for an alcohol-related medical emergency.

“No young person’s life should be lost because his or her friends were too scared to call for help. It is our hope that the Lifeline Law encourages young Hoosiers to always make the call and save a life. While legal safeguards are key, my focus is on preventing these deadly behaviors in the first place. I’ll continue talking with young Hoosiers about the dangers of binge drinking and drug use,” said Senator Jim Merritt, author of the Lifeline Law.

“College students were the true leaders who helped organize and make the case for getting this law passed in the Legislature. Now we need them to continue to lead in getting the word out that the Lifeline Law is in force to encourage medical intervention if their fellow students make mistakes with alcohol.  If today’s students understand how the Lifeline Law works, we hope they will not be reluctant to call 911 – and instead will readily seek medical help for impaired friends and not look the other way,” Attorney General Zoeller said today at Wabash College.

Out of concern that underage drinkers might not seek help for an intoxicated person in medical distress due to fear of being arrested themselves, college students from several campuses around the state proposed the Indiana Lifeline Law and advocated for it at the 2012 Legislature. The Lifeline bill became law that year and took effect in July 2012, but it has taken time for awareness of the law to sink in with the target audience: young people.

Intended to prevent alcohol-related deaths by encouraging prompt medical response, the Lifeline Law creates legal immunity for the person who calls emergency services.  “Legal immunity” means the prosecutor would not file criminal charges for alcohol offenses – such as illegal possession or public intoxication – against those who request help for an intoxicated friend and remain at the scene to cooperate with emergency responders.

Senator Merritt, R-Indianapolis, was the legislative author of the original Lifeline Law and became an advocate for it due to the tragic death of 18-year-old Brett Finbloom of Carmel, Ind., a college-bound high school graduate who died of alcohol poisoning after an underage drinking situation where medical assistance was not sought in time.

Joining Senator Merritt and Attorney General Zoeller at several college and university campus presentations to raise awareness of the Lifeline Law are Brett Finbloom’s parents, Norm and Dawn Finbloom.  The goal of the alcohol-awareness events is to remind students that the Lifeline Law exists and to encourage students to discuss it with their peers before a medical emergency occurs.  Michele Whelchel of the Indiana Youth Services Association, which produced a public-awareness video about the Lifeline Law, also has participated in the presentations.

“Underage alcohol consumption is illegal and not something we encourage, but if young people have made one mistake with alcohol they should not compound that mistake by failing to seek help when an impaired friend needs it. The Lifeline Law recognizes that treating a medical emergency and potentially saving a life is a higher priority, and so young people should know they can call 911 without incurring legal consequences,” Zoeller said.

Sen. Merritt also is author of this year’s expansion to the Lifeline Law, Senate Enrolled Act 227, that was passed by the Legislature in March and was recently signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.  SEA 227 updates the original Lifeline Law to provide additional legal protection from prosecution if underage callers seek help for other types of medical emergencies such as concussions, or are a victim of a sexual assault, or if they witness and report a crime.  Attorney General Zoeller supports SEA 227, particularly wording in the bill that encourages first responders to be equipped with and utilize Naloxone, a medication that can save the life of a patient suffering from an opioid drug overdose.  By creating civil immunity, SEA 227 removes legal barriers to first responders -- including paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and police officers – carrying the Naloxone nasal spray and administering the antidote to overdose patients. SEA 227 also has separate provisions that authorize a legislative study of crimes of sexual violence against children.

More information about the Indiana Lifeline Law is at this link: www.IndianaLifeline.org.

Additional information about Senate Enrolled Act 227, this year’s expansion of the Lifeline Law, is here: http://bit.ly/1gAgK5B

 

 -30-

Location Information:
Montgomery County

State House
IN
Marion
Contact Information:
Name: Bryan Corbin
Phone: 317.233.3970
Email: Bryan.Corbin@atg.in.gov
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