LANSING, Mich. — As students return to campus, the East Lansing Police Department is reminding them that Michigan law protects those seeking emergency assistance, even when they're drinking underage or under the influence of illegal drugs.
“Medical amnesty is a state law that essentially prevents someone from getting in trouble or charged with any type of crime if they call 9-1-1 for medical assistance related to drinking alcohol," said ELPD Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez.
The law is designed to encourage people to call for emergency help.
“Sometimes just the paramedics respond, but, if an officer goes, the officer is there simply to assist the paramedic unit with helping get the person back to the ambulance," Gonzalez said.
MSU students say they would call for help in an emergency situation.
"I think I would, because safety is the most important overall regardless," said Jalen Durant, an MSU student.
"Somebody could get hurt and I don't want that to be on my hands if I see it," said John Bell-Muhammad, another MSU student.
Without medical amnesty, partiers might be less likely to call for help simply for fear of getting in legal trouble.
“The spirit of the law is really to alleviate that fear that someone’s going to get in trouble and then the result is that they don’t call 9-1-1 for help and then the situation worsens," said Gonzalez.
A worse situation would be alcohol poisoning.
“Typically with alcohol poisoning we would see things like depressed mental status or people being very, very sleepy, hard to wake up. There may be vomiting and the real concern would be the person’s breathing," said Dr. Michael Fill who practices emergency medicine at Henry Ford Health System.
Fill said that some of the symptoms to watch out for are slurred speech, slow breathing, loss of consciousness and vomiting.
“Sometimes if you get your breathing and your mental state very depressed, you could vomit and breathe in your vomit which could cause severe injury to your lungs or s severe pneumonia," he said.
Dennis Martell is the director of health promotion at Michigan State. He and his team are working to get the word out about the medical amnesty law and encourage students to get help when they need it.
“We’re putting out all types of messages in all venues and social media.. We also have table tents in all the residence halls as well as posters which we’ve sent out to all different folks," Martell said.
He explained that surveys of MSU students show that the vast majority would call for help if a friend is overdosing on alcohol or any substance.
“The majority of MSU students in the community like to celebrate responsibly and that, we hope, will continue.”