As a parent, it's heartbreaking to hear about families who have lost a child due to drug or alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, dangerous behaviors, like binge drinking, are far too common among young people, especially on college campuses.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than one in five high school students has reported binge drinking, and more than two dozen Hoosiers under the age of 21 have died from alcohol poisoning in the last ten years.
Though deterring underage drinking is the best prevention for these alcohol-related deaths, we also need to recognize that mistakes happen. Thankfully, Indiana law provides a safety net to young Hoosiers, encouraging them to call for help and seek medical attention in emergency situations.
Created in 2012, the Lifeline Law provides immunity to minors for certain alcohol-related offenses if they call to report an alcohol-related emergency. Those individuals who call 911, stay on the scene and cooperate with law enforcement can avoid criminal penalties for underage drinking and similar charges.
No young life should be lost because his or her friends were too scared to call for help.
This legislative session, the General Assembly took this law a step further. Senate Bill 227 https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/bills/senate/227/ expands Indiana's Lifeline Law by providing legal protections to minors who call to report any medical emergency or crime, instead of only those related to alcohol consumption.
SB 227 also allows first-responders to administer Naloxone and similar medical treatments that counteract the effects of a drug overdose. These are critical improvements to law that will help save more young lives.
An amendment to SB 227 addresses another issue affecting our youth: sexual assault. The amendment requires state agencies to investigate how many people fall victim to domestic or sexual violence, the reasons the crimes are underreported, and what are the best practices in other states for reporting and connecting victims to treatment services.
According to Indiana University researchers, as many as one in four women experience unwanted sexual intercourse while attending college in the United States, and the majority of sexual assaults involve alcohol.
Serious research needs to be conducted to find out just how severe this problem is among young Hoosiers and how we can correct it.
SB 227 passed the General Assembly and awaits Gov. Mike Pence's signature to become law.
While I'm grateful to the General Assembly for passing this law, it's up to all of us to spread the message. Fort Wayne is home to several college campuses, including, Ivy Tech Northeast, the University of St. Francis and ITT.
These students are not immune to the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
I urge parents, educators and community members to talk to the young people in their lives about the risks of binge drinking and the existence of Indiana's Lifeline Law. It could make all the difference in a life-threatening situation.