Ohio University re-evaluates Medical Emergency Assistance program

U-Wire and U-Wire

One year after the start of the Medical Emergency Assistance program’s (MEA) pilot year, an Ohio University committee has begun evaluating the program to determine if it becomes a formal policy or a university protocol, which would allow for greater flexibility.

MEA allows students to seek medical attention during an alcohol or drug-related emergency without guaranteed judicial charges. One year ago, a survey of about 1,000 students revealed that about 91 percent wouldn’t call for help. The university initiated MEA in hopes of increasing this number, Director of Health Promotions Terry Koons said.

The Office of Health Promotions found a 2 percent increase in the number of students who utilized MEA from Fall Quarter to Spring Quarter. At the end of Fall Quarter 2008, eight people were granted MEA.

Health Promotions distributed follow-up surveys this quarter by e-mail to more than 1,200 students to measure awareness of the program, the program’s utilization and whether or not students feel comfortable calling.

In addition, the survey displayed a 17 percent increase in awareness of the MEA program during Fall Quarter. Of that 17 percent, 97 percent reported that they would call for help if a friend needed medical attention, Koons said.

‘By the end of the month, we will have a recommendation whether we think it should be a formalized university protocol or a formalized policy,’ he said. ‘With a protocol, we can change things if we need to. With a formal policy, it’s harder to change.’

He declined to comment further to avoid influencing the committee’s decision.

The director of judiciaries decides whether to grant amnesty on a case-by-case basis, and students only are granted the exemption from formal university disciplinary action once. MEA does not extend to court systems in the city of Athens. Students granted amnesty must still complete an alcohol or drug intervention program through Counseling and Psychological Services and pay a $100 fee.

A primary goal of the MEA program is to encourage students to put health and safety above fear of disciplinary action, whether in the residence halls or off campus, Koons said.