UB seeks to save lives with Good Samaritan Policy

Students who call 911 to help others are protected from punishment

The Spectrum

Josh Fromm, a junior finance major, was walking on Northrup Place in the University Heights with his friends. They came across two girls passed out on a lawn, rolling around in their own vomit. The girls were foaming at the mouth and there was no one else in sight.

Fromm said it was clear they had been drugged.

Within a few minutes of finding them, an ambulance arrived and the girls were taken to a hospital. Fromm still does not know who they are or where they were before ending up on the lawn, but he is glad someone had called an ambulance for them.

UB developed a Good Samaritan Policy eight years ago for students that find themselves in situations similar to Fromm's, and it is continuously developing. Elizabeth Lidano, director of Judicial Affairs and Student Advocacy, said the policy was enacted to encourage students to do the "right thing" in negative situations: to always make that phone call that could potentially save a life.

The policy guarantees students will not receive judicial consequences when they call for help. The students who seek the assistance, the assisted individual(s) and others involved in the situation are all clear from penalties under this rule. The policy applies even when there is illegal drugs, underage drinking or disorderly conduct involved.

There are 1,852 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 who die from alcohol-related injuries annually, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The policy is intended to minimize that number.

"It is vital someone calls for medical assistance when an individual is experiencing severe intoxication or serious injury after consuming alcohol or drugs," Lidano said. "Because these emergencies can be life-threatening, the University at Buffalo seeks to reduce barriers to seeking assistance."

If a phone call had not been made the night Fromm found those girls, they may not have survived, he said. Fromm believes the policy is pivotal on a college campus. Students are going to go out and have fun in a college town and sometimes people go over their limits, so it's important to have a policy that can get these people help without repercussions, he said.

The threat of punishment causes hesitation during confusing and stressful party situations, according to the official Students for Sensible Drug Policy website. The website said the existence of a Call 911 Policy is essential to ensuring people are able to receive help.

If causing or threatening physical harm or sexual violence are present in a situation, UB's Good Samaritan Policy does not apply, Lidano said.

Katie Mertens, a UB alumna, said she thinks the policy is a good idea overall, but some students become so intoxicated that their thought processes aren't working properly enough to even think to call for help. The policy needs to be promoted well enough, she said, so students remember the service when they are in the midst of partying.

Dani Guglielmo, a sophomore communication major, believes the Good Samaritan Policy will help save lives at UB.

South Campus can be scary at night, Guglielmo said. With all of the drunken students running around and the robberies that happen - often because students are too drunk and walk home alone - a policy that reduces penalties is crucial, she said.

Lidano said many students have already utilized the policy to help their drunken, unresponsive friends get help.

Students who have been hospitalized for an alcohol overdose often reach out to Lidano, the police officers, Campus Living staff members and the fellow students who made the call for help. They thank them for caring and for essentially saving their lives, Lidano said. This is what inspires her to continue enacting the Good Samaritan Policy and promoting it on UB's campus.

"We want to do all we can to make sure a student in need gets the proper care and avoid a tragedy," Lidano said.

email: features@ubspectrum.com