During his freshman year, Seth Guyer found himself in a position familiar to many college students. A friend had had too much to drink and appeared to need medical attention – and calling 911 would lead to legal trouble.
Guyer, currently a senior, made the call, but considered leaving before an ambulance arrived.
“The thought definitely passed through my head, that maybe I don”t want to be here right now,” Guyer.
Yet Guyer stayed. He said he wanted to be there to help in case paramedics had questions about his health.
“And then they called the police,” he said.
Guyer said the sort of situation that he found himself in is not rare – and students are usually far more reluctant to call for help.
A bill drafted by ASUI Lobbyist Nate Fisher that seeks to address this issue was cleared Wednesday to be presented in a full hearing in front of the House Judiciary and Rules Committee of the Idaho Legislature. The Good Samaritan Policy aims to remove barriers to those seeking medical assistance by not punishing people who call for help after underage drinking.
Fisher explained that laws similar to the one being proposed, called medical amnesty laws, have been enacted in 31 states, with 10 other state legislatures considering them during the current cycle.
He said a landmark study from Cornell University found that 19 percent of students had considered calling for medical help due to alcohol consumption in the past year, but that only 4 percent had actually called.
He said the main reason students had not sought medical assistance was a fear of getting in trouble.
ASUI has been trying to address this problem for over a year, Fisher said. When a city ordinance in Moscow was unable to progress because of a conflict with state law, ASUI set their sights on Boise, and began drafting legislation for the entire state.
Idaho State Representative Caroline Nilsson Troy praised the work Fisher has done in moving the bill through a complicated legislative process.
“I don”t know that you always get this level of engagement out of your ASUI lobbyist,” Troy said. “He”s proving that you can be an effective voice down here.”
She said historically, it has been difficult for a bill driven by a student body to make it through the gauntlet of subcommittees, hearings, and votes and become law.
Troy said that she hopes this bill will open the door to more student engagement with the state legislature.
“I”ve been pushing the legislature to find a way to do distance testimony so that people who live far from Boise can have their voices heard,” she said.
Troy said Fisher”s work has shown that the student body can make meaningful change.
“This is a big thing,” Troy said. “I”m really proud of them.”
Guyer said when he thinks back to the incident his freshman year, he wishes there had been a medical amnesty law in place.
“I would have been way less reluctant to try to get help,” he said. “A lot of people might not do it just because they”re afraid they”ll get in trouble.”
Danny Bugingo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org