Medical amnesty laws amended

Sam Banks

An amendment to the laws regarding underage alcohol consumption in Michigan is providing limited amnesty to minors that are found to be under the influence of alcohol, so these individuals may receive medical attention if necessary.

James Inigo, a resident adviser in West Hall, recalls a time when  a student who seemed intoxicated and couldn’t remember where her room was.

Inigo and an R.D. he was doing rounds with ultimately called NMU Public Safety so as to ensure the well being of the student.

“Students are always afraid of getting MIPs (minors in possession tickets) when getting caught,” Inigo said. “But when it gets to the point where a certain individual needs medical attention for drinking too much, I think that it makes them aware of the situation and makes sure they never do something that extreme again.”

According to a study done by Cornell University, 19 percent of undergraduate students said there were times when they should have called for help for a highly intoxicated person; however, only four percent of the students made the call.

The biggest reason for not calling was that students were afraid of getting themselves or the intoxicated person into trouble for being under the influence.

Lenny Shible, the health promotion specialist on campus, said if NMU students are anything like the students from the Cornell University study, then Northern has to reverse the ratio from four to one of students not calling to four to one of students calling.

“Anything that a state or an institution can do to take away that barrier so that our students can get the help that they need — without the individual student who’s having problems with alcohol or their friends, who have to take them and have to deal with a bunch of negative consequences — then that’s a good thing,” Shible said.

According to the Medical Amnesty Initiative website, nine states currently have amnesty clauses in place.

The amendment was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday, May 1, 2012,  according to House Bill 4393.  The bill asserts that when individuals meet certain criteria, they are exempt from a misdemeanor for purchasing or consuming alcohol.

The criteria for individuals to receive amnesty are that they must be a minor who has consumed alcohol, and also must voluntarily presents themself to a health facility for treatment including, but not limited to, medical examination and treatment for any condition arising from a violation of law regarding alcohol.

Additionally, any minor who has consumed liquor that either accompanies said individual to the hospital or calls 911 will also be granted amnesty.

“Anytime that we can keep our students safer for any reason, that’s a good thing,” Shible said.

Inigo said that a medical amnesty policy at NMU might go either way — students may become more responsible or it may give minors the opportunity to take advantage and drink more.

“I think that Northern needs to implement the importance of alcohol and what it can do to them from the get go right when they go to orientation,” Inigo said. “Students need to know that drinking can result in very different outcomes, and some that can result in death.”

The Health Promotions Office talks to around 40 Physical Well Being classes a year about alcohol safety and about drinking too much too fast and ending up in the hospital. They also have classes for those who violate the law regarding alcohol.

“What I like to tell people in class is that it’s the three C’s,” Shible said. “If your friend feels cold, if they feel clammy then it’s the time to call.”