College students make the grade with new Good Samaritan bill

May 4, 2012

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signs the medical amnesty bill into law during a a ceremony in his Statehouse office.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – College students combined partnership, patience and persistence to produce a Good Samaritan bill that unanimously passed the General Assembly and on Friday (May 4) was signed by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels during a ceremony in his office at the Statehouse.

The effort, begun more than a year ago on the campuses of Purdue and Indiana universities, led to the Legislature's passage of the Indiana Lifeline Law, which protects people who call for emergency assistance for an individual who has consumed too much alcohol. It grants the callers legal immunity from arrest and criminal prosecution for public intoxication, illegal possession or consumption, or transportation of an alcoholic beverage.

Purdue Student Government candidates began researching the proposal and met with area legislators last February as they built their PSG platform with a slate led by Brett Highley, a senior majoring in political science from McCordsville, Ind. Elected PSG president in April, Highley and others in the new Purdue leadership met with the student leadership at IU, where a similar effort was under way, and the coalition was born.

"We went through six or seven iterations of the proposal as we met with dozens of legislators, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and various interest groups last fall," Highley said.

Purdue graduate Greg Zoeller, the Indiana Attorney General, and the bill's sponsor, Sen. James Merritt Jr., R-Indianapolis, became "critical advocates," Highley said.

Both Highley and Justin Kingsolver, president of the IU Student Association, testified before Senate and House committees, and Zoeller spoke on the bill's behalf at a legislative lunch the students organized last month.

Critical to the bill's success, Highley said, was the collective effort. Student leadership at the University of Southern Indiana joined the coalition early this fall, and student governments at Ball State and Butler universities signed on in December. At Purdue alone, students invested more than 500 hours in the effort. PSG student leaders in addition to Highley included three other seniors, chair of government relations David Rosenthal, a professional writing major from West Lafayette, Ind.; Vice President Monica Harvey, an economics major from New Palestine, Ind.; and senior policy adviser Nicholas Robison, a major in health sciences from Leo, Ind., who is studying abroad this semester in Denmark.

"These students have shown thoughtful leadership and initiative," Purdue President France A. Córdova said. "Our students across the state will be safer for their efforts. I encourage all students to take note and never hesitate to make the call that can save someone's life."

This fall, Purdue adopted a similar medical amnesty policy called Purdue CARES, which offers protection from university disciplinary action in alcohol-related cases in which medical attention is sought. PSG also led the yearlong effort to research, develop and promote that policy.

Córdova adopted it on an interim basis in July, and it became policy in September after being endorsed by the University Senate and approved by the Board of Trustees.

Writer:  Jeanne Norberg, 765-494-2084, jnorberg@purdue.edu

Sources:  Brett Highley, 317-418-8857, bhighley@purdue.edu
                   France A. Córdova, president@purdue.edu