Members of the social fraternity Kappa Kappa Delta have joined with Students for Opioid Solutions (SOS) to bring opioid awareness to campus. Kappa Kappa Delta have planned a fundraiser for SOS on Feb. 17.
Senior Jonah Wendt co-founded SOS, a non-profit organization. Although opioid addiction isn’t an obvious problem at Trinity, SOS aims to prevent such a problem from happening by enacting policies and making naloxone, an emergency drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, available to students. Naloxone is often referred to as Narcan, the brand name of the drug.
“It’s important to educate students on contemporary issues that can possibly affect them post-graduation,” Wendt said. “If there’s an issue with an opioid overdose, we’d rather the student’s life be saved the first time.”
Ben Sawyer, junior and philanthropy chair of Kappa Kappa Delta, spearheaded the organization’s decision to host the fundraiser. Money raised at the event will go towards SOS.
“We have some people that agree that public health is a big deal, and we want to do something philanthropic like that,” Sawyer said. “Kappa hasn’t done this yet, but we want to be part of the philanthropy arm so to speak for Students for Opioid Solutions … we’re just trying to raise money for them.”
SOS plans to bring Tim Ryan, a speaker and anti-heroin activist, to campus on Feb. 24 to discuss the prevalence of opioid use on college campuses. Sawyer believes that this is the first step in raising awareness at Trinity.
“I want to talk to people about us as a community of students recognizing this; that’s how we pressure the administration, with everyone in disdain together about a problem,” Sawyer said. “We need Narcan on campus, even if you don’t know anyone who actually struggles with addiction.”
For those who currently struggle with addiction, the campus can supply consultation and referrals elsewhere. Richard Reams, associate director for counseling services, explains what students might expect from consultation.
“When I see a student who’s dealing with problems related to alcohol or other drugs, we screen for if they’re dealing with abuse, or if they’re dealing with addiction. Based on that talk with them, I’ll offer ways to move forward,” Reams said. “If a person is addicted to alcohol or other drugs, then that requires a much more intense treatment, and it also brings in a medical component because that person may very well need medical detoxification, which a person abusing substances may not need.”
As one of the primary resources for students experiencing addiction, David Tuttle, dean of students, reflected on why Trinity does not have as many alcohol and drug resources as other colleges.
“It’s a matter of scale for us. … Here, we’re adding more roles to other people’s responsibilities, and maybe we don’t have the expertise in those types of areas, so it’s a little hard to launch something and sustain something,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle and Reams are both starting points for students looking for help. One way students may be referred to these resources is through Student Conduct Board.
“So you don’t know right away if someone is addicted to or abusing alcohol, or if it’s a run-of-the-mill-violation — you don’t know if there’s abuse until you get them talking,” said Megan Kruse, coordinator for student conduct and special projects. “One of the things that the conduct model does really well, is it’s meant to open up that conversation a lot more. It’s a discussion-based model, so that’s how we can get onto the questions of addiction.”
As Tuttle mentioned, many positions at Trinity overlap and take on additional roles. Those who serve on Student Conduct Board are also trained in these issues.
“We did have the conduct panel trained by Richard Reams,” Kruse said. “He explained what an alcohol use consultation looks like, and what a drug use consultation looks like, how he deals with clients who have substance abuse issues, so he’ll talk to out conduct panel on ways to talk to students without putting them on the defensive, and ways that you can suss out someone’s spectrum of alcohol use.”
For students who visit Student Conduct Board repeatedly, the sanctions gradually escalate, as described by their webpage. The board takes into account their history and past violations. Some of these sanctions can include students leaving campus.
“We don’t ask people to leave campus purely because we believe they’re addicted to something, but based on their behavior, we may ask them to leave,” Kruse said. “A lot of times, what we’ll do in lieu of removing people from campus, is have them do alcohol consultations with counselors.”
Kruse explained that no policy states that the university should keep track of students who are asked to leave campus for behavioral reasons.
“When it comes to checking up on people after they’ve been removed from campus, I mean I think that depends on the situation,” Kruse said. “We don’t have a mechanism set in place, though we may have ResLife check up on them, or have someone email them.”
Though ResLife doesn’t often check up on students who no longer live on campus, the office does train residential assistants (RAs). Ari Fletcher-Bai, a sophomore RA for the Witt-Winn residence hall, explained how the training that ResLife goes through is more focused on helping students than getting them in trouble.
“Part of our response to addiction is how we respond to violations of drug and alcohol policy. We try to take a healing-centered perspective,” Fletcher-Bai said. “We try to make it so that people feel like we’re not targeting them, and for repeat problems, the level of consequences escalates, as well as the level of involvement from ResLife.”
Fletcher-Bai explained that first-time offenders talk with their RA. After multiple offenses, students may get referred to Tuttle or Reams. One resource for students who are struggling with substances are support groups.
In the past, the university has offered a support group for those who have a history of abusing drugs and alcohol. However, without sufficient attendance, the group was unable to continue to meet.
“Last year I started a support group, and we met maybe a half dozen times,” Tuttle said. “Very few students are interested in or are at a place where they feel like they’re ready for Alcoholics Anonymous, which requires a commitment to sobriety, and so what worked last year with the support group is that it wasn’t about sobriety only, but also for people who were struggling with use and abuse and wanted to meet with other people to talk about that.”
Though the support group hasn’t met in about a year, Tuttle expressed interest in reforming it.
“We had people who were still drinking and doing drugs, and talking to one another, and learning from one another ways that they could navigate their substance use,” Tuttle said.
In the fall of 2016, a student-led committee rewrote Trinity’s alcohol policy, prioritizing student safety at off-campus parties. The policy is called the Safer party Initiative.
For those seeking advice, one of the first places students can start is reaching out to their resident assistants and hall managers. Anyone interested in joining a support group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
with additional reporting by Kathleen Creedon, news editor.