While Indiana’s Lifeline Law has been in effect for over a decade, advocates are now asking for the law to be expanded to include legal immunity for minors when reporting drug overdoses.
The Lifeline Law, originally passed on July 1, 2012, was created and written by former state senator Jim Merritt. The current law’s immunity provides legal amnesty for minors who report a medical emergency, sexual assault or other crime from prosecuting for underage drinking and alcohol-related offenses.
“Sadly, there's a demand for drugs and people take chances and experiment,” Dawn Finbloom, speaker and advocate of the Make Good Decisions Program at the Indiana Youth Services Association, said. “I have to say that it is really crazy given the predominance of fentanyl and other substances being added to drugs thus someone often does not understand what they are taking. Nobody really wants someone to lose their life or another's life because of fear of getting in legal trouble.”
Because the Lifeline Law includes immunity for IU students, there is relief behind knowing they will not get in legal trouble for seeking medical assistance for someone experiencing an emergency due to alcohol.
“We want to make sure that our students feel comfortable contacting us for anything, especially when someone’s life is in danger,” Hannah Skibba, public information officer for IU Public Safety, said.
The Make Good Decisions program was created to educate teenagers and young adults about the law and the risks of underage drinking, drugs and destructive behaviors. The program is a part of the Indiana Youth Services Association (IYSA). The IYSA serves as a Youth Service Bureau (YSB) for the state where they prioritize providing support programs for youth, youth workers and non-profit agencies.
“We want to take away obstacles that would stop a teen or young adult from making the call or texting to 911 to get help for an overdose or alcohol related emergencies,” Michele Whelchel, IYSA’s chief advancement officer, said.
There are 55 lives that have been saved since the law was put into effect, according to Whelchel. However, according to the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey conducted on college students across the nation on drug use, 45% of college students have used illicit drugs such as marijuana and 18% have used an illicit drug other than marijuana such as heroin and meth.
“Too many are dying from drug overdose when their life can be saved, so removing all possible obstacles from the decision-making process will enable friends and bystanders to call or text for help expeditiously,” Finbloom said. “Time is of the essence because the longer someone goes medically unattended, the much more likely they are to have permanent injury or die.”
Additional campus resources can be found through the Guardian safety app — IU’s public safety platform. Features include an inbox to receive IU Notify emergency alerts, quick and easy access to 911 dispatchers and Indiana University Police Department. The app also includes a Safe Walk Timer which alerts families and friends if the user is not home, a service allowing anonymous tip submissions to the police via text and campus safety and wellness services contact information.