Alcohol coalition recommends extending medical amnesty, changing Responsible Action Protocol

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

The Community Alcohol Coalition has recommended the University reform its policy on students who receive emergency medical care for an alcohol overdose by granting them medical amnesty from disciplinary sanctions within the University’s conduct system.

The coalition submitted its recommendations last month regarding changes to Northwestern’s alcohol policy to Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, and a summary of the report will be released to the wider NU community this quarter, said Dean of Students Todd Adams, who chairs the coalition.

The current Responsible Action Protocol policy only provides this medical amnesty for the student who contacts emergency officials to get help for an intoxicated student. Amnesty is only granted, however, if the aiding student follows RAP, which entails staying with the intoxicated student and cooperating with emergency and University officials. The policy states, “students will not be found responsible for alcohol- or drug -related policy violations and sanctions will not be issued.”

Students for Sensible Drug Policy launched a petition last week calling for the expansion of medical amnesty to students for overdoses on both alcohol and other illicit drugs. Members of SSDP said they were supportive of the coalition’s recommendations on alcohol, but don’t think they go far enough.

“Underage drinking is still illegal so we should still be providing immunity to any other illicit activity,” said SSDP co-director Caroline Naughton. “Just because it’s not alcohol, that doesn’t mean it’s not a concern.”

Anna DiStefano, the treasurer of SSDP, was added to the Community Alcohol Coalition last quarter. She said the group’s petition is in line with the coalition’s recommendations, but asks for them to be expanded.

“We want students to know the petition is in support of a completely comprehensive medical amnesty policy, which, although the formal recommendation is fantastic, it’s not all encompassing,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “We believe there would be some impact from widening the range.”

Adams said he was glad to see students bringing forward ideas about the alcohol policy.

The SSDP petition calls for changing RAP to a Good Samaritan Policy, which Naughton said would help remove the fear students have of disciplinary sanctions when calling emergency officials.

“A Good Samaritan Policy provides amnesty and protection from disciplinary consequences for the students involved in a medical emergency in an effort to promote quick, responsible action,” the petition says.

The petition still supports treatment programs through NU’s Health Services if students need medical attention.

“We really want to urge Todd Adams and (Telles-Irvin) to brand it as a medical amnesty policy, because if they brand it as Responsible Action Protocol again, it’s going to be very confusing for students,” Naughton said. “We wanted to start the catalyst of really just awareness about the difference between the two policies.”

Naughton added SSDP is organizing a demonstration for later this month in which students will gather outside Telles-Irvin’s office to call for an “all-inclusive medical amnesty policy.”

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