Dec. 15, 2017

Post-Alcohol Support Space opening soon

UCalgary sets sights on harm reduction by creating a safe space to wait out the risky effects of alcohol

Author

Rebekah Jarvis, University Relations

Kyle Guild, director of operations and volunteer with Student Medical Response, and volunteer Renee Nutini are part of the larger team that will run the Post-Alcohol Support Space when in opens in January.

Kyle Guild, director of operations and volunteer, and volunteer Renee Nutini.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Those in need of a safe place to sleep off intoxication will have a new and nearby option this January, when the Post-Alcohol Support Space (PASS) opens for a four-month pilot period.

The PASS has all the resources required to assess and care for inebriated visitors, including a registered nurse (RN) and the Student Medical Response (SMR) team.

According to Kyle Guild, SMR volunteer and director of operations, the PASS is a logical extension of the services his team already offers. Most of the evening calls for SMR are alcohol-related and the PASS provides an alternative to calling Emergency Medical Services.

“The PASS lets us continue care on campus for students who are too intoxicated to safely travel home alone, as long as they don’t have any other medical concerns,” says Guild. “Previously, we may have needed to send those students to the hospital in an ambulance. Now we can keep them under the supervision of an RN until they’re able to leave safely on their own.”

Judgment-free zone

Guild is certified and registered as an emergency medical technician/primary care paramedic in Alberta, but he’s also a fourth-year bachelor of commerce student — he and his fellow SMR volunteers know first-hand what it’s like to be a student. 

“The response we get from students is usually positive,” says Guild. “There’s not that sense of authority, so I think interactions can be more relaxed — students seem to trust us.”

Trust will be critical to the success of the PASS initiative, which was developed around three key principles: to make the space friendly, nonjudgmental and consequence free. A stay at the PASS won’t trigger communications to professors or parents and it doesn’t go on any record, academic or otherwise. All members of the university community are encouraged to use the PASS without fear of consequence.

Reducing the harm of alcohol

The PASS initiative was developed with input from Risk, Student Experience, Campus Security, Residence Services, the SU Wellness Centre and the SMR. Despite their varied backgrounds, members of the group agreed — a safe place for intoxicated students to wait out the effects of overconsumption would reduce their risk of harm.

Debbie Bruckner, senior director of student wellness, says the university approaches alcohol consumption from a harm reduction perspective. “Rather than attempting to deter students from drinking at all — which is not effective — we’re offering tools and information to help them be safer when they do choose to engage in alcohol-related activities,” she says.

Tasks like getting home or even falling asleep can be dangerous for an intoxicated person and the PASS is one way to help make them safer and provide them with positive support.

Opening this January — PASS it on!

The PASS will be open Thursdays and on special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day and the last day of classes during the winter semester. 

The number of beds in the PASS will be fluid — students may stay the whole night, be discharged, sent to hospital, or sent home with a responsible adult.

Located in Cascade Hall, the PASS is not accessible to the public by foot. SMR or Safewalk volunteers will escort visitors to the space — they can be called to any on-campus location by phone at 403-220-5333.

You can call for yourself or for a friend but all PASS visitors must be University of Calgary members, be able to walk, and arrive voluntarily.