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Red Watch Band Care Team Spreads Bystander Intervention Techniques

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Red Watch Band (RWB) continue their trailblazing bystander intervention lifesaving training program through various outreach and education initiatives.

Red Watch Band
Massapequa High School Red Watch Band ceremony recently celebrated 49 students who were trained in prevention of toxic drinking.

Alcohol and other Drug Outreach Specialist Kerri Mahoney presented at the 2018 Student Affairs Conference at New York University on Friday, February 16, highlighting RWB aspirational techniques to universities throughout the country.

The RWB program teaches students and staff how to identify the signs and symptoms of an alcohol overdose to prevent death from toxic drinking, and since it was implemented in 2009, it has trained over 8,000 people in the Stony Brook community.

Mahoney’s presentation at the Student Affairs Conference focused on sharing with the audience the development of the Red Watch Band CARE Team and discussed the role of student leaders in campus program engagement. Mahoney shared the team’s experiences, which can be applied to other bystander and peer education programs.

The RWB CARE Team is a Peer Education group comprised of 40 student leaders who conduct outreach with their peers in multiple settings in an effort to increase participation in the training program and enhance the efforts of other alcohol and other prevention offerings.  The CARE Team members are passionate about their cause of promoting healthy behaviors and reduce high-risk drinking and the harmful consequences often associated with overconsumption of alcohol. Additionally, the organization held over 40 events on campus this past year, ranging from alcohol abuse prevention and CPR training to trivia and paint nights.

This presentation is the latest in a theme of distinctions for RWB, as the Stony Brook CARE Team won the award for Outstanding Peer Education Program as part of the NASPA Bacchus Peer Education Conference on November 18 in Denver, CO. NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (formerly the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) is the leading voice for student affairs administration, policy and practice. The bystander awareness and training initiative trained a single year record of 2,000 Stony Brook students (plus 550 additional local high school students at Cold Spring Harbor, Comsewogue, Herricks and Jericho) during the 2016-17 academic year, providing them with the knowledge and life-saving skills to prevent toxic drinking. After their record-breaking training initiative the team trained more than 1,300 students (1,000 SBU, 300 HS) in Fall ‘17.

“This is a really big achievement for Stony Brook and it also serves as a really great example to other schools,” said Mahoney, who served as a graduate assistant to the Red Watch Band while completing her Master’s in Public Health in 2016. Her work with the organization has been vital to their continued expansion efforts and overall success. “Sometimes people use alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism when they are under a lot of stress so it’s paramount to demonstrate that there are other ways to channel your emotions and relax.”

Red Watch Band originated at Stony Brook and has since spread to colleges and universities nationwide as well as local high schools. Over 241 institutions have signed user agreements with RWB and over 50 have active training programs on campus, including some high schools such as Massapequa High School in Long Island, which has trained around 300 students since they brought the program to their school. This school is currently developing a CARE Team which will be mentored by Stony Brook’s RWB CARE team.

“During the training, we start with the history of the Red Watch Band program, then go into breaking down barriers to calling, sobering myths, symptoms of alcohol overdose and what to do to call for help,” said Rakia Syed ‘18, a double major in Biology and Linguistics who joined the RWB CARE Team in the spring of 2015 and is among a group of roughly 10 student trainers. “With every passing year that I am involved, I have gotten more passionate about the cause, and there is a new aspect that I find enjoyable.”

Red Watch Band as a whole plans to expand their efforts going forward to include education on marijuana and other drugs, including awareness of the current heroin and opioid epidemics and the accompanying and potentially lifesaving Narcan training.

“Red Watch Band addresses a gap in prevention,” said Lara Hunter, Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Services and the National Director of Red Watch Band. “This is really about teaching empowerment to the bystander to have the courage to call for help if they’re in a situation where they are afraid someone has had too much to drink.”

“It has been amazing to see the fruition of so many people’s help,” said Syed. “Witnessing the effectiveness and growth of Red Watch Band and these recent recognitions are a testament to the dedication Stony Brook has made to ensure the university is a space where safety is prioritized.”

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