In 2011, 600 people in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties died of accidental drug overdose, according to the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance.
There are approximately 80,000 deaths every year attributed to alcohol use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an attempt to get medical attention to students experiencing situations involving overdoses, university officials enacted a new medical amnesty policy Thursday.
The policy will shield students from being cited by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities if they seek medical attention for someone else experiencing drug or alcohol overdoses. The amnesty policy will also extend to the person in need of medical attention.
Dean for Students Michael Freeman said the university hopes the policy will make sure students experiencing overdose situations act responsibly.
“If you are out with your friends and they’ve been drinking or they may have taken something and it is obvious to you that they are in medical peril, then we want you to be able to call for emergency assistance,” Freeman said. “We want students to do that without thinking about ‘Oh, I’ve been drinking and I’m underage, so now I might be cited.’”
He also said the policy should not be construed as the university condoning underage drinking or illegal drug use.
“To me, the good outweighs that kind of concern,” he said. “I’ll take that criticism if the policy can save one person’s life.”
Freeman said the policy only applies to specific situations in which a student seeks out medical help, and a student who is in that situation will have to prove they sought out medical attention themselves. The policy doesn’t apply to off-campus incidents because they generally don’t get back to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, he said.
“The way the process works is that a report will come in to student conduct, student conduct will send that report to my office,” he said. “I will look at the report and based off what happened I’ll determine if medical amnesty applies or not.”
In spring 2012, the student organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy was established at USF and Evan Eisenberg, the president of the club at the time, made it the first goal of the club to work on having a medical amnesty policy at the university.
In February 2012, Eisenberg presented a resolution before the Student Government Senate, which passed the resolution on to administrators.
Since then, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and Dean for Students has worked with the input of students and student organizations to draft the medical amnesty policy that was put into effect last Thursday.
“Prior to most medical amnesty policies being enacted, only about 51 percent of people called 911 in these sorts of situations, and we thought that was something we needed to stop,” Cassandra Akanu, co-president of SSDP and a junior majoring in information studies, said. “The intent behind it is to save student lives rather than punish them.”
While the policy does not apply to local or federal law enforcement agents, the state of Florida passed the “911 Good Samaritan Act” in October 2012, which also grants amnesty to an individual who contacts medical authorities for someone who is experiencing an overdose.