Education

Merritt, Zoeller Visit Campuses To Tout New “Lifeline Law”

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October 23, 2013 — TheStatehouseFile.com

FRANKLIN, Ind. – Sen. Jim Merritt of Indianapolis and Attorney General Greg Zoeller are traveling to colleges and universities across Indiana to make sure students know about a law meant to help kids who drink to excess and need emergency assistance.

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, visited Franklin College to tell students about a law that provides them immunity if they call for help for a friend who’s had too much to drink. The stop in Franklin is part of a larger tour of universities to spread the word about the Indiana Lifeline Law.

In the past two weeks, the pair have taken their message about the Indiana Lifeline Law to Ball State, Purdue, Indiana, and Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne universities. On Tuesday night, they were at Franklin College with plans to travel Wednesday to the University of Southern Indiana.

“There’s not a lot of understanding about the statute,” Zoeller said. “And I think that reinforces the idea that we need to go out to schools.”

A few hundred students attended Tuesday’s event at Franklin College. Zoeller and Merritt showed a video interview of a mother whose underage son died from binge drinking.

The son died after the state had passed the law. But no one at the party called 911 promptly, even though the law meant they could do so without fear of prosecution.

The law provides criminal immunity to individuals who call 911 when a friend is in danger from alcohol poisoning or other problems caused by drinking or drug use. The law only provides immunity to the student who calls for help, not for the minor who needs the assistance.

Merritt said lawmakers need to do a “better job” of informing students about the laws that affect them. That’s why they’re visiting students during National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week.

Zoeller and Merritt explained the law to students and answered their questions. Merritt said many students have mentioned that they would be worried to call the police since it could punish their friends for underage drinking.

But he told them that it’s safer to call in case the issue is serious.

“I would just hope that you’d have the courage to fight through that worry that your friend may be mad at you,” Merritt said. “But at least you’re making a good judgment call and hopefully saving their life.”

Merritt said he plans to introduce an amendment that would alter the current lifeline law in the upcoming legislative session.

Under his proposed amendment, minors who have been drinking can receive immunity if they call for a friend who needs medical attention for any reason, not just for binge drinking.

“The person needs medical attention,” Merritt said. “And that’s what the code ought to say.”

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