BOSTON — A bill proposed by State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) that protects people under 21 from prosecution for seeking medical assistance while under the influence of alcohol, was passed in the House Wednesday night.
A version of Ehrlich’s Good Samaritan bill was included as part of a House Criminal Justice Omnibus bill that passed. She filed the bill jointly with State Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem).
“When a 15-year-old girl in Baldwinville is incapacitated by alcohol, and then abandoned in a field by her friends because they are too afraid of getting in trouble to call 911, it is clear that urgent action is needed,” said Ehrlich. “I was moved to craft policy to address that.”
Ehrlich said the 15-year-old spent two weeks in a coma from alcohol poisoning because her friends were too afraid to call paramedics for help.
The state passed a Good Samaritan Law in 2012 that provides limited immunity for possession of a controlled substance, but the law’s scope is limited in its definition of a controlled substance, and alcohol is not included. Adding this new language alleviates that gap, she said.
Several state colleges and universities have already implemented their own policies with a similar mission to encourage students to look out for the safety of their peers, but Massachusetts is one of only 13 states without a statewide medical amnesty policy for alcohol, she said.
She said that the policy does not seek to condone underage drinking but to encourage young adults to be good samaritans and call for help when it is needed.
“Adolescents may not always make the best decisions and should not be drinking underage,” said Ehrlich. “But, this change in our laws will make it easier for them to call for help when they or their peers are in trouble.”