UT students push to include illegal drugs in alcohol amnesty program

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin could expand its Good Samaritan Policy, after Student Government passed a resolution pushing for the change.

A.R. 5 supports expanding Student Amnesty for Alcohol Emergencies to include all illicit substances, and renaming the policy to reflect the change.

The current program was created to encourage underage students to seek emergency medical care during an alcohol-related emergency. UT students can avoid formal university disciplinary action through the amnesty program.

“Underage drinking and illegal drug use on campus does exist, it’s a fact, you can’t deny it,” said Tarel Patel, Student Government Chief of Staff. “By offering rehabilitation services, by promoting education and awareness of things like binge-drinking, is how you can help solve those problems, rather than stigmatizing them.”

Patel says SG was first approached about the issue last year, by the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

“People had personal connections to people dying from overdoses in all areas of the United States, college age populations. So we decided, let’s see what we can do about this,” said Patel, a co-author of the resolution. “It’s focusing on saving lives rather than scaring people into getting people into trouble.”

In order to get amnesty with the current program, students who call 911 must stay with the person and cooperate with emergency personnel. Next, they’ll be referred to Student Judicial Services and evaluated for amnesty. Eligible students are required to take an education course.

Patel says education and counseling is crucial in helping students.

“Show them what these drugs do to you, how harmful they can be, and how if you’re addicted to them, you can get help and turn your life around.”

Amnesty can be granted to the UT student(s) calling for help, as well as the student who is experiencing the medical emergency.

While the program could expand amnesty at the university, illicit drugs still aren’t included in the state’s amnesty policy, meaning students could face criminal charges from police.

However, UTPD says students shouldn’t think twice to call for help.

“If someone is in crisis, call 911, get somebody’s help,” said Captain Don Verett, who’s been with UTPD for 23 years. “Somebody’s life is more important than getting in trouble with the law.”

SG hopes UT will lead the way on the issue, and inspire more campuses to enact similar policies.

Patel says if the idea passes through the administration, UT Austin will be the first public university in Texas to include illicit drugs in a Good Samaritan Policy.

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