Stony Brook’s Red Watch Band (RWB) CARE Team received the Community Youth Leadership Award last month from the Caron Foundation, an organization aimed at transforming the lives of people affected by drug or alcohol addiction. Red Watch Band is a training program for students and professionals in universities across the country, focused on spreading knowledge, skills and resources to prevent alcohol overdoses.
“Of course the best thing to do is to not have any alcohol or drugs but that’s unrealistic to think that college students are never going to drink,” Alcohol and Other Drug Outreach Specialist Kerri Mahoney said. “My goal is to make sure no one’s dying or getting really hurt from alcohol.”
After Stony Brook University Hospital Geriatrician Dr. Suzanne Fields lost her college-aged son to alcohol poisoning in 2008, she collaborated with SBU’s former President Shirley Strum Kenny to develop the program. Lara Hunter, coordinator of the Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Outreach Services, built on it in 2009 by creating the CARE Team to help publicize Red Watch Band.
“Before the CARE Team got started, we were training close to 200 students a semester,” Mahoney said. “Since then, every fall we train at least a thousand students. It’s a really great thing to recognize them for what they’re doing because not only does that motivate them to do more in the future, but they really deserve it.”
The team provides training where students can learn how to intervene in situations where someone may be experiencing an overdose. The Community Youth Leadership Award is a motivator to continue the work they’re doing and helping the Stony Brook campus community.
“To me, this award means that all of our hard work is being recognized,” Lazaro Rivera, CARE Team leader
The Caron Foundation’s Community Youth Leadership Award isn’t the first recognition Red Watch Band has won. Last year, the organization won the Outstanding Peer Education Group of the year at the BACCHUS Conference, where they were recognized for consistently providing health and safety education for Stony Brook students.
“When I got trained, my facilitator did a really great job of taking in the silliness but also using it as a learning experience,” Derrick Wagner, an occupational therapy graduate student who underwent Red Watch Band training, said. “They really enforced the fact that if you don’t know what to do, just call because that call can save someone’s life. I really like how Red Watch Band enforces that passing out isn’t funny, it’s serious.”
Throughout the year, Red Watch Band hosts a variety of large-scale events in collaboration with other organizations that promote alternatives to stress relief besides alcohol consumption.
One such program, paint night, is a popular event where students can use provided paint and canvases on occasional Thursday evenings in one of the Student Activities Center ballrooms.
“The idea of paint nights is that we typically do it on Thursday nights, which is intentional because we know a lot of students like to go to The Bench on Thursday nights,” Mahoney said. “If we have this from 7 to 9 p.m. or 8 to 10 p.m., it might not deter them from going to The Bench completely but maybe they get there a little later, meaning it’s a few
Red Watch Band also has a subgroup, Red Watch Band Commuters, aimed at communicating with commuter students about alcohol. During Commuter Appreciation Week, club members stand near the Student Activities Center bus loop and distribute care packages in zip-lock bags filled with a granola bar, hand sanitizer, air freshener and resource card with information on training dates, and drinking and driving.
Since commuters don’t live on campus, RWB offers rush hour training sessions where students can stay for an hour and a half instead of leaving and spending that time in traffic. RWB also partners with CSA to bring awareness at events such as Monster Bash and Relax-a-Thon.
“I wanted to get involved with the CARE team to make an impact on campus,” Brianna Peterkin, CARE team leader and sophomore business management major, said. She was glad she could inform students about the myths surrounding alcohol overdose. “People believe that bread, water, cold showers, coffee, and other things can help someone revive from an alcohol overdose. However, only time can help someone recover from an alcohol overdose or binge drinking.:
Other bystander intervention programs on campus include Green Dot, which educates students on recognizing potentially violent situations, and Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR), which teaches students to recognize suicidal behavior. Students that train in all three intervention programs receive a certificate and a cord for graduation at the Upstander Gala in the spring semester.
Mahoney said there are over 7,000 students and faculty members that Red Watch Band trained. Their goal is to reach 10,000 trainees by the end of the Spring 2019 semester. The Red Watch Band CARE Team will be celebrating its win at the New York Community Service Awards Breakfast on Oct. 31 in New York City.
“I hope to see Red Watch Band grow bigger and continue to maintain this idea that even though the training is only an hour and a half, we can actually learn so much,” Mahoney said. “A serious goal would be that everybody got Red Watch Band trained as a university, not in a mandatory way, but like ‘this is a social norm,’ this is an expectation of what we’re going to do as a student.”