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Being a Good Samaritan Can Save Lives

Alcohol facts

Stony Brook University’s Good Samaritan Policy encourages students to call for help for themselves or others in regard to alcohol or drug related emergencies. The policy represents a change in the student conduct code, wherein the student who requires assistance, as well as the bystander that called for help, may not be subject to disciplinary action for violations of the alcohol or drug policies.

“Research suggests that students are somewhat hesitant to call for help in fear of “getting in trouble,” whether it be that they are going to face judicial ramifications or fear of suspension,” said Marisa Bisiani, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs’ Division of Student Health, Wellness and Prevention Services. “With that being said, it appeared to be a logical approach to do the best we could to remove the barriers so students would feel more comfortable calling for help.”

Stony Brook has made a commitment to increasing awareness of the signs and consequences of toxic drinking. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), one in four students reported that their drinking has impacted them academically, nearly 600,000 students are injured while under the influence of alcohol, and each year, 1,825 students die from alcohol-related injuries.

“A lot of college-age students between the ages of 18 and 24 might not have experience with drinking alcohol, and if they drink relatively quickly, meaning they consume a lot over a short period of time, an overdose can happen very quickly. The most important concern is the safety of their friend, and we will work on any other concerns after that,” continued Bisiani, stressing that the policy’s main goal is to make disciplinary action the furthest thing in a student’s mind when a friend might have suffered an overdose.

Good Samaritan is all about recognizing that if there is alcohol use and it gets to a point that it’s not safe, students need to call for help. In case of an emergency, students shouldn’t waste time by trying to wait to for the alcohol to get out of their system — just make the call for help. The emergency personnel will arrive and they’ll take care of the rest. If on campus, call University Police at 333 or (631) 632-3333. If off campus, call 911.

The Good Samaritan Policy serves as a complement to the bystander intervention training of Red Watch Band, which teaches students how to identify the signs and symptoms of an alcohol overdose to prevent death from toxic drinking. Lara Hunter is the Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Services and the National Director of Red Watch Band.

“I think that Red Watch Band addresses a gap in prevention,” said Hunter. “This program 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 that someone has had too much to drink.”

The policy was constructed by an interdisciplinary group including the University Police Director of Community Relations, administrators from Campus Residences, Communications, medical personnel and counselors. The new policy took effect at the start of the Fall 2017 semester.  

For more on the Good Samaritan Policy and how to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning please visit the Good Samaritan website.  

Anthony Vertucci

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