It’s not every day you see pink unicorns and blue toucans dancing at the Scramble Light on the Ball State University campus. But they were there to call attention to an important event about a serious topic.
Battling the blustery cold, a large group of Ball State faculty, staff, and students—including a few students in colorful costumes meant to attract attention—conducted the third annual Prevention and Drug Take Back Day, part of an initiative to educate the campus community on drug awareness and harm reduction. The concept of harm reduction includes acceptance that illicit drug use is a part of our community, but attempts to reduce the harmful effects of drug use rather than ignore or condemn it.
The event was held Oct. 20 by the Ball State University Center for Substance Use Research and Community Initiatives (SURCI), the Addictions Coalition of Delaware County (ACDC), the Student Association for Addressing Addictions (S3), and the Ball State Healthy Lifestyle Center in partnership with the Muncie Folk Collective and its Harm Reduction Team.
During this year’s Prevention and Drug Take Back Day, participants were able to pick up free Fentanyl test strips; drop off old or unused medication for disposal; and get addiction and prevention resources. Students in S3, the official student arm of ACDC, distributed free doses of Naloxone (brand name: Narcan), a medicine that quickly reverses an opioid overdose, along with the Fentanyl test strips. The students also explained how the Naloxone and the Fentanyl test strips should be used.
The students at this year’s Prevention and Drug Take Back Day distributed 350 doses of Narcan, 400 fentanyl test strips, 1,000 drug prevention postcards, and 1,000 Nicotine Quit Day cards, in celebration of Nicotine Quit Month in October. The expired medications collected at the event filled a twenty-gallon trash bag. Those medications will be safely disposed of by Muncie police.
“One good thing was not having any Fentanyl test strips or Narcan left by the time we were done. I know not everyone will use them, but if it saves one person’s life, that’s what matters,” said student Makayla Thompson, a senior Social Work major and an S3 member.
Students in S3 and SOCWK 430, an immersive learning course within the Social Work department, gain experience in the field and community outreach initiatives such as community clean-up days, campus social substance use prevention campaigns, providing a drug and alcohol-free student social network, and drug take-back days like this one. S3 also provides mocktails every Saturday night during Late Nite events, and distributes drug prevention education materials.
All 24 students in the class, under the direction of Dr. Dane Minnick, assistant professor of Social Work and director of the Ball State SURCI, will be ready to take the Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS) exam at the end of the semester. Adopted in 1994, the Prevention Specialist certification is one of the fastest-growing credentials in the field of addiction-related behavioral healthcare. With this course turning out between 20-25 new prevention specialists annually, Indiana is on track to have the most certified prevention specialists in the country within five years, according to Dr. Minnick.
“It’s an innovative way to tackle the problem; not being passive. We’ve removed the barriers and are actively placing Naloxone into students’ hands,” said Dr. Minnick, who also serves as the executive director of ACDC.
Jeff Robinson, president of Muncie City Council was one of several city officials who attended this year’s Prevention and Drug Take Back Day.
“I’m so incredibly thankful for the hard work being done by passionate citizens in our community to help address the ongoing drug addiction crisis. It’s inspiring to witness their dedication,” Mr. Robinson said. Also in attendance were Delaware County sheriff Tony Skinner, Muncie deputy mayor Richard Ivy, Delaware County commissioner Sherry Riggin, and Dr. Scott Rutledge, dean of the Ball State College of Health, among others.