One night in the Fall of 2010, while an undergrad at Michigan State, I was at a party where….
a group of people were arguing over whether or not the girl who was “passed out” on the couch was in need of emergency medical attention. I heard all the excuses and arguments—not THAT drunk, she’ll sleep it off, police will come and give out MIPs, she’ll be angry, etc. I watched in sheer bewilderment as individuals who were too intoxicated to be making rational decisions in the first place, argue over just how much she had to drink and how it wasn’t enough to hurt her. Despite the repeated objections, I helped put her in a car with a sober driver and she was taken to the local hospital. This was, unfortunately, not the first time, nor the last, that I would encounter this type of situation during my undergraduate career.
It was also during this time that I was working for the Michigan Senate and it was because of nights like that, I authored a paper entitled: The Need for Medical Amnesty Legislation in Michigan. I worked with an interested legislator to sponsor and draft a bill and I spent my free time gathering the support of Michigan’s universities and other state-wide organizations. After 14 months of advocating for this bill, testifying before several committees, and fielding the many concerns legislators had, the bill, which had failed in both 2006 and 2008, was passed unanimously in the Michigan Senate and 105-4 in the Michigan House.
Following the passage of Michigan’s bill, I wanted to take my passion for this type of policy to the rest of the country. Using what I learned from Michigan’s bill and coupling it with my experience in legislative advocacy, I created The Medical Amnesty Initiative. Our focus with the organization is two-fold: advocacy and education. Through advocacy, we work towards the introduction and passage of the bill throughout the country. We collaborate with interested legislators to draft and sponsor a bill, support it as it moves through the legislative process, and gather state-wide support for the policy. We also engage student governments at major universities in the state to help them become involved with the process. I think students can have a powerful voice in this process and we help to move them in the right direction using strong data and proven methods of advocacy. Through education, our vision is to create an educational program that can be given to universities, student governments, and other organizations, as soon as the bill is passed. That way we decrease the amount of lag time that I have found usually exists between when a bill is passed and when young people begin to learn about it. Building on the relationships created during the advocacy stage, we’re hoping that this easily customizable program can immediately be distributed throughout a campus and community.
Currently, there are 8 states with a proposed Medical Amnesty bill and we are working in each of them to ensure that students are engaged in the process, and that state legislators are provided with all the information they need to make an informed decision. At the same time, we are also working towards the full implementation of an educational program at Michigan’s many colleges and universities which includes items like a permanent poster on each dorm floor, quarter sheet advertisement in student mailboxes, table tent ads in cafeterias, an ad on campus tv, an email blast out to all students from the University or student governments, etc. We are also in the process of creating a program specifically directed at Greek communities to ensure that all of their members are aware of the law and to use its protections at the first sign of an emergency.
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