Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a new measure to encourage young people to call 911 to save a life, even if they’re consuming alcohol underage. The new law, which takes effect July 1, ensures that people drinking under the age of 21 do not face legal penalties if they seek medical help for someone in danger.
A priority of the Florida Board of Governors, the bill (HB 595) was sponsored by Rep. David Silvers, D-West Palm Beach, and Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. It’s an expansion of a 2012 law that grants amnesty to people who call 911 to help someone experiencing a drug-related overdose. The number of alcohol-related deaths among 18 to 24-year-olds is growing nationally, increasing from 207 in 1998 to 891 in 2014, according to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
“Public safety is paramount and it’s critical our young men and women get the medical attention they need in an emergency,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This bill helps ensure our young people on campuses will proactively seek medical help for their peers in emergency situations.”
Board of Governors Chair Ned Lautenbach has elevated the profile of student safety, creating the Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Health Task Force in January 2018. The Task Force, made up of Board members and university trustee chairs, has examined national best practices and is working to implement those practices across the System. The law is an expansion of the Good Samaritan Law passed in 2012 that gives legal immunity to people who call to report a drug overdose.
“Some of the Task Force’s work is about encouraging responsible choices from our students, while some of the work involves fostering a campus culture where students feel safe to reach out for help if the situation arises,” said Ned Lautenbach, Board of Governors Chair. “This law is a big step toward removing barriers that might prevent someone from calling to save a life.”
“This bill cleared a number of hurdles in order to become law, but now we begin the next phase of our work, which is making sure students know about it,” Rep. David Silvers said. “Fear of getting in trouble should never be a reason that someone doesn’t make that life-saving phone call.”
“The Good Samaritan Law was an excellent piece of legislation, but it didn’t address a key component — which was underage drinking,” said Senator Jeff Brandes. “No parent should ever have to experience the heartbreak of learning their child has died of alcohol poisoning.”
“On behalf of the Florida Student Association, we thank all the people involved in getting this law passed,” said Jalisa White, President of the Florida Student Association and a member of the Board of Governors. “If this law can save even one life, then it will be worth it.”
Facts about the State University System of Florida and the Board of Governors
The State University System of Florida is a constitutional body led by the 17-member Board of Governors. The system has 12 universities and more than 345,000 students, making it the second-largest public university system in the nation. Responsibilities include defining the distinctive mission of each institution and managing the system’s coordination and operation. The Board appoints a Chancellor who serves as the system’s chief executive. For more, visit flbog.edu, think-florida.org,or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.