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March 9, 2014

Legislation extending ‘lifeline’ law headed to governor

It provides immunity to youths who call 911 for alcohol-related emergencies

INDIANAPOLIS — An expansion of Indiana’s lifeline law is now on its way to Gov. Mike Penceafter receiving its final legislative approval Thursday.

Under current state law, minors receive immunity from arrest or prosecution when calling 911 for alcohol-related emergencies. This year’s legislation broadens those legal protections for intoxicated minors who need medical attention, become victim of a crime, such as sexual assault, or need to report a crime, Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said.

Merritt said expanding the law to medical emergencies came from feedback he received from college students who wanted to call 911 for help but were unsure what was wrong.

A former student government president of the University of Southern Indiana helped pass the initial lifeline law in 2012, and the law continues to be a tool for students needing to seek help, said Angela Batista, the university’s dean of students.

“Having a lifeline law is really important,” Batista said. “A lot of young people really struggle in making those choices, and any tool we have about focusing on safety and getting help right away without getting into trouble I think is helpful.”

Batista said the university stresses the law to students throughout the year, and the expansion will reiterate the message to reach out for help. The university’s student government has run marketing campaigns to place magnets in every room with resources and reminders on how to call for help, Batista said.

The legislation also includes a study of sexual violence against children and how to connect victims to treatment services. Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, led the effort to include the study in the legislation.

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