Good Samaritan Policy urges students to ‘Just Call’ for help with alcohol poisoning
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 01:09
In the interest of protecting the safety and wellness of students, Miami University is piloting its new Good Samaritan Policy, which will allow students to seek emergency care for alcohol or drug abuse without fear of judicial citations, according to Director of Student Wellness Rebecca Baudry.
The primary motivation behind this policy is to equip students to look out for each other and keep each other safe, Baudry said.
“At its root, it’s about health and safety,” Baudry said. “Across the nation, the numbers of deaths because of alcohol have climbed. It just made a lot of sense to give students tools to look out for each other.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are an estimated 1,825 alcohol-related deaths among college students a year – a 27 percent increase since 1998. Baudry is not aware of any such deaths on Miami’s campus in recent history and said she hopes this policy allows the university to keep that track record.
Under the new policy, if a student calls for himself or another seeking emergency medical assistance for alcohol or drug abuse, the incident will be reported to the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution (OESCR) but they will not receive a judicial citation, Baudry said. Instead, OESCR will seek to get the student the education or counseling they need to restore their health.However, the incident will remain on the OESCR record for one year and the student will face punitive action if they have another offense during that time.
In addition, this policy will not excuse students of other crimes that may occur due to the influence of alcohol, such as belligerence or vandalism, Baudry said. Additionally, Baudry emphasized that this policy is only in place for emergency situations; it does not excuse other alcohol crimes such as open containers or underage possession.
The policy was first proposed by former president of Associated Student Government (ASG) Nick Huber two years ago when it was commonly referred to as the medical amnesty bill, and was recently approved by the President’s Executive Council (PEC), according ASG President Nick Miller.
“It could potentially save a life,” Miller said. “We hear so many stories of people dying from alcohol abuses. I hope to God it’s never needed but if it is ever needed, it could save a life.”
Now that it has received the PEC approval, the Good Samaritan Policy is being piloted this semester and will be fine-tuned later in the year, according to Dean of Students Dr. Mike Curme.
“We’re piloting it this fall because we want a better appreciation for the nuances and gray areas that will arise because of this policy,” Curme said. “But the Good Samaritan Policy procedures are in place for these things to happen.”
According to Miami University Police Chief John McCandless, this policy has already been in place in the police force for a long time.
“From the police perspective, this isn’t a new way of doing business,” McCandless said. “We’ve always considered alcohol abuse as a medical emergency where we aren’t looking to arrest people. We’re looking to get them the help they need.”
McCandless emphasized, however, that this policy only concerns a pretty narrow set of circumstances.
“If you were to become disorderly or violent or bust a window, the Good Samaritan Policy would no longer be in place,” McCandless said.
In conjunction with the Good Samaritan Policy, the Office of Student Wellness will be launching the “Just Call” campaign next week to educate students on the signs of alcohol poisoning and drug abuse, encouraging them to call for help as soon as they identify these signs in someone, Baudry said. They will be placing educational materials on toilet stalls, bulletin boards and TV screens across campus, as well as working with HAWKS Peer Health Educators and Resident Assistants (RAs) in residence halls.
“This is about saving lives,” Curme said. “What we want students to know is ‘Just Call.’”