Panel Examines State of Substance Abuse on Local, National Level

The School of Social Science and Human Services at Ramapo College held its third annual “Addressing Substance Abuse” conference on Monday, in conjunction with other departments on campus and institutions in the area, to promote the ongoing effort to inspire healthy lifestyles for students.

The all-day event took place throughout campus, starting in the Student Center with break-out sessions, as well as in the Anisfield School of Business building and A-Wing.

This year’s theme was “Promising Community Partnerships,” which was embodied through the diverse gathering of faculty, professionals, students and visitors who attended the designated sessions to hear and give lectures that focused on fighting the stigmas of substance abuse as well as prevention through education.

“The event turned out really well,” said Kristin Kenneavey, assistant professor of sociology, who helped organize the event. “All of the content was phenomenal and wonderfully beneficial to students who were able to see the challenges that are inherent to working around this issue.”

Some of the presenters included John Ward, the Ridgewood police chief, who gave a lecture entitled “The Law Enforcement Side of Substance Abuse,” giving those present a better view of the degree of difficulty surrounding the fight against substance abuse.

Another presentation, “College Drinking: What You Really Need to Know,” came from a team from Ramapo’s Center for Health and Counseling, consisting of Judy Green, Cory Rosencranz and Angelica Russo. This focused on the misconceptions of alcohol abuse as well as the College’s efforts to curb it through various programs.

“We really try to take a comprehensive approach to where we look at students who may have early drug or alcohol problems,” said Green, director of the Center for Health and Counseling. “We utilize many resources including information from the judicial system to help reach out to students, as well as through national research that identifies high-risk groups such as Greeks and athletes who, for example, are given individualized training towards prevention.”

Stanley Leone Jr., a leadership consultant at The Flippen Group, gave the event’s keynote speech. Leone is a former drug dealer, addict and gang member who, through the help of others who believed in him, turned his life around and eventually graduated magna cum laude from St. Xavier College in Chicago. He said that the ability to connect with another person and believe in them, like those who affected his life, can greatly help an individual through recovery and directly lead to someone becoming a better person.

“His message was very powerful,” said Green. “I hope that the students and professionals who were there are able to take his message and be able to help a person or enable them to get the help they need to turn their life around.”

The Center for Health and Counseling also gave another presentation on its effort toward providing alcohol-free programming for students to help prevent substance abuse. One of the successful programs they spoke about was their After Dark Program, which is allocated grant money to fund events proposed and organized by students that take place during peak “party times” (10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) and offer a substance-free environment for students to be engaged and socialize. A recent example was the luau game night held by the Student Government Association in the Bradley Center on April 9.

Ramapo’s efforts to curb substance abuse, especially after the Four Loko instances that resulted in the banning of the drink and a tightening of alcohol policies, seems to be working in terms of reducing certain violations, according to Green.

There seems to be a common understanding among the campus community that if students want to abuse substances, then they are going to, but at least there are options for those who don’t and stricter safety nets to reduce the chance of someone getting hurt.

“I think the conference and the programs Ramapo has are definitely good to help educate students,” said Dan Rowen, a senior. “Even if most of them aren’t listening, I think it’s important they have a place to go to when they do need help, which the school seems to have done pretty well.”