INDIANAPOLIS – This year marks a decade since Indiana passed its ‘lifeline law,’ and some advocates are calling for the law to be expanded.
The law, which was passed in 2012, provides legal immunity to underage Hoosiers from alcohol-related offenses if they are reporting a medical emergency or crime.
Dawn Finbloom has worked to make sure teens know about the law since she lost her 18-year-old son Brett in 2012, shortly after the law went into effect.
“Brett was very excited about being about ready to start college,” Finbloom said.
That August, before he was set to leave, he met up with some of his fellow graduates from Carmel High School. He had been drinking and passed out, Finbloom said.
Someone eventually called for help, but it was too late – Brett was put on life support and died days later.
“If the call had been made earlier, his chances of survival increase significantly,” Finbloom said.
Advocates say the law has made an impact.
“We know there have been 55 lives saved,” said Michele Whelchel, chief advancement officer for the Indiana Youth Services Association.
“I think it is making a difference because it could mean the difference between life and death,” said Chief Jill Lees of the Indiana University Police Department.
Former State Sen. Jim Merritt, a Republican, introduced the law. He wants to see lawmakers expand it next year to include immunity when reporting a drug overdose, he said.
“Like alcohol being very available, drugs are incredibly available today,” Merritt said. “There will be drug overdoses at parties.”
“There’s always going to be a new batch of teens,” Finbloom said. “And we want those teens to have the best tools that they can possibly have.”
Advocates urge parents to talk to their kids about alcohol poisoning. Some of the warning signs include pale skin, vomiting, a change in breathing and loss of consciousness, Whelchel said. If you see any of those symptoms, you should call 911.