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Indiana’s Lifeline Law

Indiana’s Lifeline Law was first enacted on May 4, 2012; during the 2014 legislative session, it was expanded to save even more lives. If you have a teenager or college student in your family, you should make sure they know about the Lifeline Law. Universities and social organizations are teaming up to spread awareness through social media and public spotlights, so your teen might act like it’s old news, but it’s information that bears repeating.

What is the Lifeline Law? It’s basically a law that provides immunity for a minor who calls 9-1-1 to report that someone is having an alcohol- or substance-related health emergency. Party-goers are sometimes reluctant to seek help for a friend who has been injured while over-indulging or who may even be suffering from poisoning or an overdose. They fear they will get in trouble themselves. The Lifeline Law was passed to remove the fear and encourage friends to call for emergency assistance in such situations.

What kind of immunity does it offer? A minor who seeks assistance for someone else won’t be charged with public intoxication, being a minor in possession or underage drinking.

Are there any stipulations? To be protected by the Lifeline Law, the person making the call to 9-1-1 must provide his or her full name and other information requested by law enforcement officers; they must remain on the scene until assistance arrives; and they must cooperate with authorities at the scene.

Does it also apply to drugs? It does in the sense that it provides legal protection for individuals who report any medical emergency, even a sexual assault or drug overdose, if alcohol is involved.

Why is a law like this necessary? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than one in five high school students have reported binge drinking. More than two dozen underage Hoosiers have died from alcohol poisoning in the last 10 years. Across the country, every 44 hours one college-aged person dies of alcohol poisoning from drinking too much, too fast. Most of the teen drinking deaths aren’t traffic related – they’re from other alcohol infused accidents, such as falls, homicides, suicides, and alcohol poisoning. In most of these situations, there are likely to be other underaged people on the scene, so the Lifeline Law is designed to bring help before a death occurs.

Has the Lifeline Law been effective? State Senator Jim Merritt said there have been at least seven occasions over the last two years where the Lifeline Law has saved a life.

The new school year has started. If you know someone in high school or college – yes, even middle school (in 2013, 18.6 percent of high school kids said they had their first drink before age 13) – send them a text message about the Lifeline Law. It could save someone’s life.