HIGHLAND PARK – State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) sent a letter to Mayor Nancy Rotering and the Highland Park City Council urging them not to charge for life-safety services, as it would “jeopardize children’s safety.”
“I assume that we can agree that the punishment for a child’s mistake for drinking too much alcohol should not be death,” Drury said in the letter. He added that the idea of charging for police, fire or ambulance services at underage drinking parties in a parent’s home is a “step backwards from the life-saving legislation he worked (with the assistance of a Highland Park family) to pass in 2015.”
Drury told DailyNorthShore.com that he introduced the 2015 Medical Amnesty Act at the request of a local family whose underage child almost did not receive needed medical attention after consuming too much alcohol. When the minor lost consciousness, most of her friends ran away, except for one person who courageously called 911.
“Instead of the Good Samaritan being congratulated, she and the minor in distress received citations from the police,” said Drury. “While I do not condone underage drinking, the penalty for engaging in that conduct should not be death or serious injury. The Medical Amnesty Act addresses the issue by allowing a person to seek help for a minor who is in distress from drinking too much alcohol without fear of being prosecuted. The Good Samaritan must have been the one to initiate the emergency response and must cooperate fully with law enforcement to obtain the benefits of the Act.”
Drury said he recently spoke with the mayor, several City Council members and the city manager.
“While the discussions have been positive, it is my understanding that Highland Park will continue to discuss the idea at issue, along with other ways in which to confront the issue of parents hosting parties where teenagers are permitted to drink alcohol,” said Drury. “Our office will continue to advocate against ideas that deter people from seeking medical assistance for minors in distress. As set forth above, the law should encourage people to help our children. A law that would punish parents at the expense of children would represent poor public policy.”
Drury represents Illinois’ 58th District, which includes all or portions of Bannockburn, Deerfield, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Knollwood, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Northbrook, North Chicago and Riverwoods, according to a press release.
Dailynorthshore.com asked Drury’s opponent in the November 8 election, Marty Blumenthal (R- Highland Park), to share his views on charging for life-safety services: “I do like the Medical Amnesty concept,” said Blumenthal. “Teenagers who don’t have enough judgment to avoid getting intoxicated, but do realize that professional assistance is needed should not be punished. The hesitation could be fatal. The courts are already crowded with these types of offenses and these cases only exist to raise money for the municipality.”
Blumenthal said he does not favor charging for the police department, fire department, or for any calls to them. “If this passes I see it expanded to include other reasons as well. The taxes we pay are supposed to cover this.”
At its September 26 Committee of the Whole meeting, the city announced plans to research a social hosting ordinance that would fine parents for teenage alcohol parties and possibly charge them for police response costs as well.
DailyNorthShore.com reported that Councilman Michelle Holleman expressed concern at the meeting that kids could suffer if they need medical attention during a party, because parents won’t want to incur the extra fees for notifying the police, which Drury referenced in his letter.
“Apart from the moral issues surrounding charging for life-safety services, the amendment could lead to disastrous consequences – even death,” said Drury.