Indiana’s ‘Lifeline Law’ championed amid Greek life crackdowns


INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) There is a law in place in place right now across Indiana that is designed to help students who drink underage. It is called the Lifeline Law, and its creator says it is saving lives.

On Wednesday, State Senator Jim Merritt and others championed the law for college students. This comes a day after another university in Indiana voted to temporarily suspend fraternity activities.

The Indiana Youth Services Association says every 44 hours, a college-aged person dies from alcohol poisoning.

Merritt, a Republican from northeast Indianapolis, said the law is designed to help young drinkers.

“We know kids are drinking under 21.”

On Tuesday, Indiana University announced fraternity social activities on the Bloomington campus are temporarily suspended. Last month, Ball State University announced its 13 fraternities agreed to go dry and not host activities involving alcohol until Jan. 31.

They’re part of a growing national list of colleges following suit.

Merritt said: “We’ve seen too many examples where people are dying at Fraternity parties and situations on college campuses.”

Stevan Stankovich lost a fraternity brother to alcohol.

“The last time I see Johnny, he’s being taken out of the house in a body bag,” he said.

Stankovich now travels Indiana speaking about underage drinking. In 2008, his fraternity brother, 18-year-old Johnny Smith, died after he came home one evening.

“That moment was the worst moment of my life,” he said. “It was a tragedy that was completely preventable. He died from drinking too much, too fast. If one of us called 911, would’ve known about alcohol poisoning, he would still be here today.”

Merritt championed the Lifeline law he helped pass in 2012. It provides immunity for some alcohol offenses to people who call or text 911 and ask for medical help or report sexual assault.

Merritt said the law is working. He points to more than 40 lives he says were saved since the law took effect.

“This is our effort to save 43 lives among many others probably. Hopefully we won’t have the same problems that have occurred on other college campuses around the country.”

Mary Anderson, a parent, said she supports the law.

“I think it’s great,” said Anderson. “I think kids should be allowed to call and have no repercussions if they’re helping people.”

Another parent, Debbie Shoulders, disagreed.

“No. I don’t think they should. I think they should be disciplined for it.”

To learn more about the Lifeline law, click here.

If you or someone you know is dealing with underage drinking, here are resources you may find helpful:

You can also call the national Hope line at (800) 622-2255. In Indiana, you can call or text 911 for help.

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