Legislator Seeks To Expand Indiana Lifeline Law

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, is proposing an expanded version of a law that gives minors immunity from underage drinking charges when seeking medical help.

Dawn Finbloom

Photo: Brandon Smith

Dawn Finbloom explains how she thinks the expanded Lifeline law could have helped her son who died from an alcohol overdose.

Proponents of legislation that would expand Indiana’s Lifeline law say it will help save lives by removing barriers for minors seeking medical help for themselves and others.

Indiana’s Lifeline law, passed last session, provides immunity from underage drinking charges for minors that seek medical attention for other drunk minors.

Legislation authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, would expand the law to provide the same immunity if reporting a crime or seeking medical attention for any reason, not just drinking too much.

Since its passage, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Merritt, have toured the state, visiting college campuses to teach students about the law. They’ve heard from young people who say the law is making a difference.

But Indiana University Student Association Vice President Christopher Kauffman says too many barriers still exist when underage drinkers encounter life or death situations.

“The proverbial telephone still weighs one thousand pounds in the heat of the moment, a factor of guilt, fear and possibly shame,” Kauffman says.

Dawn Finbloom’s son Brett was a Carmel High School student who died from an alcohol overdose. She says if her son’s friends had known about Lifeline, he might not have died.

“Brett’s message is the Lifeline law,” she says. “Brett’s message is to make good decisions but, if you have a friend that doesn’t, to not be afraid but to just make that call as soon as possible.”

Supporters of legislation expanding Indiana’s Lifeline law say their goal is to ensure no more young people die because their friends were too scared of criminal charges to call for help.

A Senate committee Wednesday unanimously approved the bill. It now heads to the Senate floor.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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