OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a law that allows underage drinkers to call for medical help without fearing prosecution.
The law is meant to encourage minors to call 911, if needed during a medical emergency. A similar law was passed for drug overdose cases in 2010, the Seattle Times reported.
By expanding the law to cover alcohol, Washington has joined a growing list of states that have embraced the policy.
Twelve states have “good Samaritan” laws. Colorado became the first to approve the law in 2005, according to the Medical Amnesty Initiative, a national nonprofit established last year to boost the policy.
Six other states are in the process of approving a version of the policy, said initiative founder Aaron Letzeiser, a 23-year-old recent Michigan State University graduate who got passionate about the idea in college.
“We don’t support underage drinking, but unfortunately it’s something that’s never going to be at zero,” Letzeiser said. “This is a policy that can really help to save young lives.”
The law was approved by the Legislature last month – 72-24 in the House and 44-3 in the Senate – following campaigning by Letzeiser’s group and some alcohol-poisoning cases at the state’s universities.
During the bill-signing ceremony, Inslee referenced Kenny Hummel, an 18-year-old Washington State University freshman who died in October after being found unconscious in a dorm room he was visiting. His blood-alcohol level was 0.4 percent – five times the legal limit.
Inslee said Hummel’s parents, Lisa and Bill, helped to push the bill.
“The tragic death of their son Kenny moved them to seek this important legislation to offer protection to those who seek vitally important medical assistance,” the governor said. “I want to thank you for your family’s leadership. It’s going to do a lot for other families.”
More than 2,100 underage drinkers were hospitalized in Washington in 2010, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Networking.
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