IU freshman's death puts focus on new Lifeline law
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University officials, lawmakers and a liquor store chain are working to make underage drinkers aware of the state's new Lifeline law following the death of an IU freshman who suffered a head injury during a party where alcohol was being served.
The law is designed to grant immunity to someone who calls for help for another person who needs medical care because of alcohol consumption, even if the person is underage.
Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said the goal of the law is to put the safety of someone needing help first.
"Nobody's going to get mad that you called 911," he told The Herald-Times.
Rachael Fiege, a 19-year-old from Zionsville, died last Saturday after friends found her at the bottom of some basement stairs after an apparent fall. They told police they moved her to another room and monitored her overnight, but no one called for help until nearly six hours later, when she couldn't be awakened.
The new law lays out circumstances in which immunity is given if help is sought "for an individual who reasonably appeared to be in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption."
Merritt said he thinks police will be more focused on getting care for the injured person, even if the injury turns out not to be alcohol-related, than on arresting people who made the 911 call.
"A lot of times we need to put a little more confidence in law enforcement," he said. "A lot of times, all they really want to do is help. They have that culture of care going on. They just want to make sure everybody's OK. I think you have to put a little faith in the police."
IU spokesman Mark Land told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis that campus officials are beefing up their campaign to educate students, especially incoming freshmen, about the Lifeline law.
"We are hoping by us doing our part we can help students do their part and maybe save the life of a friend at some point," Land said.
Big Red Liquors is also working to educate customers. It's placing flyers and posters at its stores with the message, "If you're not 21, we don't want your business," along with instructions to "make the call, get help, save a life!"
"It's a common-sense law that says if somebody's in trouble, don't scatter; wait, make the phone call. You could possibly save a life," said Matt Colglazier of Big Red Liquors.
Colglazier said the liquor store hopes to make a difference, especially in Bloomington.
"We have sons and daughters and for us it's personal," he told WTHR. "We wanna make sure that if one person is out there and is a little more conscientious, stays with the person, makes the call, then that's enough."
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