Utica College awarded $30k to educate about toxic drinking

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The NCAA CHOICES Alcohol Education Grant Program provides funding for NCAA member institutions and conferences to integrate athletics departments into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse.

Utica College has been awarded $30,000 in funding from theNational Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to help address the risks involved with the misuse of alcohol. Awarded through the NCAA CHOICES Alcohol Education Grant program, the funding will allow Utica College, in collaboration with its Athletics Department, to start a Red Watch Band bystander intervention program.

“The reason we launched Red Watch Band at UC is that every campus should be training students to be effective bystanders when toxic drinking occurs,” Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students and Campus Life Timothy Ecklund told the UC Tangerine. “It only takes one student who has been drinking in this manner to turn into a tragedy for the campus.”

In his interview with the UC Tangerine, Ecklund said national statistics on toxic drinking show alcohol toxicity is a problem across the nation, with roughly 1,800 students dying annually as a result of excessive drinking.

“That’s 1,800 students that don’t have to die,” Ecklund told the Tangerine. “There’s just no other way to put it. We want to be proactive and avoid this from happening at UC.”

The NCAA CHOICES Alcohol Education Grant Program provides funding for NCAA member institutions and conferences to integrate athletics departments into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse. NCAA CHOICES projects must partner athletics with other campus departments in the development and implementation of effective alcohol education projects.

“Further engagement of our student athletes in alcohol education, specifically bystander intervention, seems a natural support to the ‘positive citizenship’ portion of our mission as well as the ‘challenge student athletes to maximize their potential’ portion of our vision,” said Director of Athletics and Physical Education David Fontaine. “This is a true growth opportunity, not only for the time our students spend at Utica College, but for the life they will lead upon graduation.”

Red Watch Band (RWB) is a bystander intervention program designed to train students on when and how to intervene when faced with toxic drinking, dispel myths related to drinking, and ultimately change the culture of the institution as it relates to students’ attitudes towards drinking and behaviors regarding drinking. While the program is open to all students, the grant will focus on the training and programming directed toward athletes, as athletes are a large part of the Utica College student body and are often students who are in positions of leadership.

“It’s important that they have this knowledge of alcohol overdose as well as being a proper bystander to prevent unfortunate events from happening to their peers, teammates, or friends,” Senior and SAAC President Lauren McDonald told the UC Tangerine.

Founded at SUNY Stony Brook University Medical Center by Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny and a faculty member whose son died from alcohol poisoning /overdose at Northwestern University, the RWB bystander intervention program is intended to prevent deaths and other harm caused by alcohol overdose.

The program includes CPR and AED training in conjunction with toxic drinking education and elaborate role playing to help students recognize the signs for alcohol overdose and when and how to call for help. RWB-trained students understand how alcohol affects human physiology and behavior, how to recognize an alcohol-related medical emergency, and how to respond appropriately and in accordance with emergency protocols and College policies.

RWB also recruits students to serve as part of the RWB Care Team, a peer education group made up of student leaders who conduct outreach with their peers in multiple settings in an effort to increase participation in the RWB training program and enhance the efforts of other AOD prevention offerings. 

The RWB Care Team members also promote healthy behaviors and reduce high-risk drinking and the harmful consequences often associated with overconsumption of alcohol.

“By further educating and training students on appropriate intervention through the establishment of the Red Watch Band, our student athletes would become campus leaders in an effort to make our institution a safer place with regards to alcohol related incidences,” Fontaine said. “In addition, coaches and other athletic staff will support all efforts of our students in their journey to make Utica College a better place.”

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