Colleges Adopt “Good Samaritan” Policies for Drug and Alcohol Emergencies

The University of Miami is one of a growing number of colleges that have instituted “Good Samaritan” policies to encourage students to call 911 when they are with someone who may be in danger from consuming drugs or alcohol.

The policies state any student who calls campus police or another emergency service to help another student with a drug- or alcohol-related medical issue will not face legal consequences, USA Today reports.

More than 11 states have Good Samaritan laws, the article notes. Colleges are looking to personalize the rules for their own campuses. According to Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, there are more than 240 colleges and universities with some form of a 911 Good Samaritan policy on the books. More than half of these policies cover situations involving all substances, while the rest cover only those involving alcohol.

Schools that have recently passed Good Samaritan policies include the College of William & Mary, Franklin Pierce University, University of Connecticut, University of Maryland, Ithaca College, Columbia University and University of Georgia.

According to Charlie Shreiber, senior and student body president at the University of Miami, there have been 30 reported cases on the campus of overdose or alcohol abuse this semester. “The moment a student picks up the phone to call campus police, this policy is in place,” he said. “The fear of retribution is what we need to alleviate.” The college newspaper reported three students died as a result of substance abuse in the last year.

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    Timothy Shoemaker

    December 19, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    Great caution is needed here friends. What may sound to be an effort grounded in common sense is being shown to have unintended consequences. In some cases, those consequences are fatal.

    In an age of scientific-based policies, we know that amnesty policies have failed to demonstrate an increase in report rates as is often expected. An ONDCP position statement itself warned that the technique has not been proven effective. Many communities, such as mine, put substantial effort into the promotion of such policies only to be greatly disappointed (and surprised) by the contradictory results.

    In our case, focus groups indicated that our student’s persistent *fail to report* rate was driven by factors unrelated to official sanction (social stigma, impaired judgement, cognitive dissonance). Those same student groups cited “tough alcohol policies” as one of the clearest and most effective deterrents to substance use and found that *zero tolerance* policies increased the perception of harm, which in turn encouraged reports from bystanders. A strong legacy of peer reviewed research supports this sentiment.

    The same nullification factors came into play with our failed opiate overdose amnesty effort, but with even more tragic results. Prior to amnesty, the criminal justice system was the primary gateway to treatment for overdose victims. The criminal charges received by overdosees or bystanders were dismissed upon condition of the the patient completing treatment. Under amnesty now, the ambulance pulls away and there are no charges, no follow up, and no referral to treatment. Without an intervention, the suffering addict continues their downward spiral and the entire community suffers. In practice, a Narcan save (without follow up) does not equate to an intervention, but in fact reduces the perceived risk of drug use.

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    Fr. Jack Kearney

    December 3, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    What a great idea that will save lives! We need “nobody gets busted” laws like this for addicts who fear calling 911 for an overdosed buddy because they don’t want to get arrested.

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