September 26, 2011

Students Spread Awareness of Medical Amnesty Law

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The Student Assembly passed a resolution Thursday aimed at educating students in Collegetown about New York State’s new Good Samaritan Law, which allows people making a 911 call about a drug or alcohol-related overdose in progress to avoid criminal penalties.John Mueller ’13, an undesignated at-large representative to the Student Assembly, partnered with Gannet Health Services to bring the resolution to the assembly. The resolution — which passed 20-1 — will “make students aware of the change so that they can stay safe and get help if they need it,” Mueller said.The resolution initiates a marketing campaign that consists of packets distributed to Collegetown residents with information about the new law and magnets and fliers to post around their homes. These packets will also be distributed to businesses in Collegetown.The Good Samaritan Law allows anyone — including Cornell students living off campus — to be protected by medical amnesty. Cornell has had its own medical amnesty policy since 2002, but that has only applied to incidents on campus and in the Greek system. Students who have been faced with alcohol-related emergencies in Collegetown in the past have been reluctant to call because of the judicial repercussions, according to Kate Fideler ’12, a student who worked to bring the resolution to the S.A. “There is a need for the resolution because there is a lack of clarity of what amnesty covers,” said Chris Sanders ’13, who was also involved in the resolution.There are many different medical amnesty policies on campus — one for on campus, one for off campus, and another for the Greek system. Since there are varied policies, this resolution, “creates an opportunity to look at the policy and make it more clear and easier for students to understand,” Sanders said.   Gannett Health Services co-sponsored the resolution. Deborah Lewis, Gannet’s alcohol projects coordinator, said that while Gannet is focusing on making Collegetown students aware that they can now call 911 when their friend gets dangerously intoxicated without worrying about getting in trouble, it is also looking to change Cornell’s medical amnesty program to create a universal policy on campus, she said.Calling 911 for a friend could save the person’s life; the goal of the new medical amnesty policy is to increase the number of 911 calls made, she said. “There are no fees attached to a 911 call — it’s the only free medical care in the country,” Lewis said.  “It’s an amazing thing and we should use it.”Kate Fideler ’12 said she hoped that the resolution would help encourage students to call for help for a friend in need without having to worry about the consequences.“There is a social standard that you will get in trouble if you call 911 for a friend,” said Fideler. “I want the message to be: If you need help, you call.”

Original Author: Margaret Yoder