SSDP and Health Ed to open new drug education center

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Brown Health Education are combining their efforts to create a student-run Drug Education Center for Brown students. The center, which will open later this semester, will provide students with information on the effects of drug use and referrals to drug abuse counseling services.

The impetus for the center came from SSDP, said Trevor Stutz ’07, president of SSDP. “I think it’s important for people to look at drugs objectively and look at why they’re using them and what they’re using,” Stutz said. “We don’t want people just relying on their friends’ experiences and maybe some government Web site” for information about drug use.

The center is intended to serve as a safe and confidential space where students can go to ask questions about drug use and receive accurate, scientifically-based information. Resources will be offered with information about the effects of a wide variety of drugs and substances, including marijuana, tobacco, prescription drugs, alcohol and caffeine.

The center represents a new approach to drug education because it is student-run. Frances Mantak, director of Health Education, and SSDP hope the center will be an effective and worthwhile resource because students will feel more comfortable talking to their peers about drug use rather than to adult professionals.

“After DARE (and other government-sponsored drug education programs), people have mistrust of information (about drug use) coming out of institutions,” Stutz said.

The Brown Drug Education Center is being modeled after the Drug Resource Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which was started a few years ago and has proven successful.

Both Mantak and Stutz emphasized that the center is not to promote drug use or provide counseling services. If students wish to speak to a professional about their drug use, volunteers at the center will be able to provide them with referrals both within and outside of the University.

Trained and experienced volunteers will run the center with a system of walk-in hours a few days a week. Most of the volunteers will have prior experience in peer counseling in programs such as the residential counseling program.

SSDP and Health Education are currently in the process of training student volunteers and working out the logistics of the center, including issues surrounding liability and confidentiality. The center, which will be located in Faunce House, is expected to open sometime this semester, although the exact date is uncertain.

While the Drug Education Center is fully supported and has been approved by the University, it will not receive specific funding because most of the resources already exist within the University and it will be staffed by volunteers.