"Life-saving" policy may become state law

Jessie Hellmann

The Student Government Association (SGA) has worked on bringing a medical amnesty policy to USI this fall semester, but it may not stop there. SGA is working with student governments from IU and Purdue to push the policy to become a statewide law.

Through a medical amnesty policy under-aged drinkers would not be penalized for drinking if they call for help while in life-threatening circumstances.

SGA President Jordan Whitledge said IU and Purdue originally got the idea to push a bill for a state wide policy.

Seven states have medical amnesty laws including Colorado, New Jersey, California, New York and North Dakota.

“We jumped on board with them, and we’re going to give them our full support and do what ever we can,” Whitledge said.

Members of IU and Purdue student governments have met with house speaker Brian Bosma, State Representative Dave Frizzell and State Representative Sue Ellspermann to talk about the bills benefits and why they should support it, Whitledge said.

Whitledge met with County Sherriff Eric Williams and the County Prosecuter Nick Herman, and they expressed support for the bill, Whitledge said.

“Luckily, we haven’t had any deaths concerning students, knock on wood, but I want to make sure USI is still taking a practical approach as far as alcohol consumption,” he said.

Despite the growing support for this policy throughout the state, critics say this policy encouraged under-aged drinking.

Whitledge disagrees.

“Every statistic that we’ve looked at on universities that have instituted policies like this, have not seen an increase in drinking,” he said. “Overall they’ve seen an increase in people calling for help. “

We just want to save students’ lives, Whitledge said.

SGA has started writing the policy and have talked to administrators for feedback.

Under-aged drinkers who call for help won’t be free from all consequences. Instead of legal penalties, the young-adults may have to do community service or write a paper about the affects of alcohol.

Whitledge said he hopes to have the final policy ready for review by the end of fall semester.

Jim Wallace, Republican candidate for governor, approves of the medical amnesty policy the Student Government Association (SGA) is trying to pass, because he has been in that situation before.

“My daughter’s boyfriend passed away under circumstances very similar to that. Something had happened, and the kids who were with him were afraid to call the authorities,” Wallace said.  

“We absolutely need to remove that apprehension,” Wallace said. “I cannot think of a worst burden to carry for the rest of your life than one like that where you could have done something but you didn’t because you were afraid of the consequences.”

SGA asked Student Wellness Assistant Director Christine Tollis to help with the medical amnesty policy at the beginning of the fall semester, and she has ever since.

She said she hopes students would get help for their peers even if a medical amnesty policy was not implemented.

“If having a medical amnesty policy means that more students are willing to make that call,  then I’m all for anything that helps students get the help they need,” Tollis said.

Tolis attended a substance abuse conference, and students and administrators from Purdue talked about the policy at their school.

“The thing that was most interesting was that since the policy has been in effect, they had very, very few times invoked the policy,” Tolis said.

It is a valid concern that a medical amnesty policy could encourage under-aged drinking, she said.

“I am sort of a realist, and I understand that students sometimes do choose to engage I that behavior,” Tollis said. “A medical amnesty policy is in place so you can get help for a friend with a severe medical need from drinking too much, and really I don’t think anyone wants themselves or their friend to get into that place.”