Pennsylvania representative proposes bill to allow self-exclusion from alcohol purchases

FAYETTE COUNTY, Pa. — A local lawmaker came up with an idea to help people struggling with alcohol addiction after experiencing it first-hand.

RELATED: Pennsylvania state representative out of Fayette County suspected of DUI in car crash

“Over the past year or so, I have, unfortunately, struggled with alcohol addiction,” said Representative Matt Dowling.

Speaking from experience, Rep. Dowling, who represents Fayette and Westmoreland Counties, knows the struggle of alcohol addiction, especially after a recent DUI crash.

“The reason why I’m out telling my personal story is I want to destigmatize that there’s a certain type of person that suffers from any type of addiction,” said Dowling. “Because, you know, if I wouldn’t have had that stigma in my head, perhaps I would have reached out for help earlier. And that’s what I want to see my constituents and the people of Pennsylvania do.”

Dowling wants to help by adding another resource for people. He just introduced legislation that if passed would create a way for people to voluntarily add themselves to a list that prevents them from being able to purchase alcohol.

“No one else can exclude another individual,” said Dowling.

It would work just like the program designed for gambling addiction.

“It would be a five-year period just like the gambling, self-exclusion, you could re-up yourself after those five years,” said Dowling. “You would also be able to send a letter into the PLCB, and in writing request to be taken off the list at some point in time.”

Dowling says he knows it’s not foolproof and people immediately spotted that.

“It’s hard for people to say I know I need to stop, but they’ll find other ways to get around it,” said Traci Melko. “Like, ‘hey will you run to the store to get me something.’”

“I live about a half hour from Morgantown, West Virginia,” said Dowling. “Maybe 25 minutes, I could go down there and sit in a bar, restaurant order drink, even if I was on this list. But it is something to help that person who’s struggling with addiction to give a second thought to going into a store and ordering a drink.”

“It’s a really great idea,” said Melko. “I know people who have struggled with it in my own life. I hope it works. The person just wants to want to get better.”

As for penalties for establishments that sell alcohol:

“We’ve worked with taverns and restaurants to make sure that there weren’t onerous penalties placed on the establishment themselves,” said Dowling. “If there would be an issue where maybe their reader was down, and they accidentally served someone. There’s no penalties like that. But it is still a safeguard for the user that has put themselves on that list.  This would have establishments carding everyone.  You know those of us who may be a little bit older, we can start to feel flattered I guess if that happens, not myself because I won’t be ordering but for those that go in, they would scan the license for every every transaction.”

The proposed legislation is in committee now. Dowling says he’s retiring from politics in November and hopes one of his colleagues picks up this legislation.

He says the earliest this legislation could be voted on and passed would be next March.

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