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Quinn O'BrienRed Watch Band Sets Standard for Nation

200 Schools Model Alcohol Overdose Intervention Programs on Stony Brook’s Campaign

Asked why she joined Red Watch Band, the nation’s first bystander intervention program to prevent student toxic drinking deaths, undergraduate Quinn O’Brien said, “It’s difficult to see your friends put themselves into dangerous positions. After I got training, I felt better going out, knowing that I had the knowledge behind me to look out for my friends.”

Created at Stony Brook in 2009, Red Watch Band was the first program of its kind to combine alcohol overdose prevention with bystander intervention, CPR and an effective training program for students. What set Red Watch Band apart from other programs was its emphasis on providing students with the skills, awareness and confidence to watch out for each other, rather than prohibition against drinking.

A little more than three years after its founding, Red Watch Band has trained close to 1,500 students and dozens of high school classes. About 200 colleges, universities and high schools around the country have either implemented the program or are in the process of doing so. Now, with new research demonstrating the program’s efficacy and value, Red Watch Band is ready to spread the word even further.

“Our research has been very positive,” says Lara Hunter, Coordinator of Alcohol and Drug Clinical Services and National Coordinator of the Red Watch Band Program. “It tells us that trained students have an increase in knowledge and skills around alcohol use and overdose. There is a marked increase in their willingness to intervene on behalf of a friend, and also in their ability to identify the signs of a life-threatening overdose. That’s important, because it can save someone’s life.”

Last semester the Red Watch Band team presented their research findings at the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) conference. The University is also one of 32 prestigious colleges and universities across the nation that belong to the National College Health Improvement Program, a learning collaborative on high-risk drinking that started at Dartmouth.

“Most of our students come forward voluntarily for training,” says Lara. “That includes special groups, such as fraternities and sports clubs. We train between 200 and 300 students a year.


Red Watch Band Training Video

“We start the program by asking students if they’ve ever worried about a friend who’s had too much to drink. Everybody rai

ses their hand. So the need is there. I’d love to see the program expand. The more students we can train, the better.”

Quinn, a Resident Assistant and member of the Lacrosse Club, convinced most of her lacrosse team to undergo the training, which includes lectures, CPR training and role-playing.

“They ended up looking out for each other a lot more,” she says. “The most important thing for me after I trained was being able to see someone in a situation and not be afraid to call. You learn that the most important thing is that they stay alive, that they’re okay. Now I don’t let anything slide.

“The change has to happen within students, because it’s not going to happen from outside,” she adds. 

By Toby Speed; photo by John Griffin


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