#PartySaferMonth, a series of programs dedicated to harm reduction and the maintenance of a safe on-campus community, was piloted this April by the Office of Health Education (WesWell). The programming was planned by WesWell staff and interns who worked in tandem with the Support, Healing, Activism, and Prevention Education Office (SHAPE)Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Office of Student Involvement, the Connecticut Clearinghouse, the Connecticut Center for Harm Reduction, and Connecticut Community Renewal Team.

The month of April was chosen for #PartySaferMonth because Alcohol Awareness Week, National Tobacco Awareness Day, and 4/20 all fall during April. The programmed events include overdose prevention training, bystander intervention training, HIV and Hepatitis C testing, a tobacco- and vape-free lollipop campaign, and #PartySafer tabling in Usdan University Center.

“I am hoping the events of this month provide students with some fun experiences, where they can interact face to face with staff they may not have met and think about some perspectives they maybe hadn’t considered,” CAPS Psychotherapist Sarah Powers wrote in an email to The Argus. “I think it is really important for students to see us out there so that they know what their resources are and see that we are approachable for whatever questions they may have now, or anytime in the future.”

According to Health Education Specialist September Johnson, who initially came up with the idea for#PartySaferMonth, the programming is intended to directly promote harm reduction.

“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with ‘risky’ behavior while acknowledging that everyone may be at different levels of readiness to change their behaviors and offers strategies to meet them where they are,” Johnson wrote in an email to The Argus. “This month is meant to learn together about these important topics so we can learn and build upon the necessary skills to bolster our community of care.”

Johnson underscored that everyone can benefit from the knowledge and skills that harm reduction education provides, particularly because it plays a role in many aspects of everyday life.

“Although our culture often has a zero-tolerance policy for risky behavior, harm reduction helps to see the humanity in every situation, knowing that every situation is different for every person,” Johnson wrote. “Using the harm reduction skills we can help keep ourselves safe, keep our loved ones safer, and overall create the community of care that we all strive for here at Wes.”

Powers articulated that much of the work that #PartySaferMonth promotes stems from the importance of learning.

“We have to learn in order to better understand, which allows us all to make informed decisions for ourselves—especially when it comes to substance use,” Powers wrote.  

SHAPE Director Johanna DeBari collaborated with WesWell for #PartySaferMonth, helping plan events such as the Love Line at WesWell, a conversation and Q&A session with staff from CAPS, SHAPE, and WesWell about sexual health and safety to be held on Wednesday, April 27. According to DeBari, many goals of #PartySaferMonth correlate with those of the SHAPE Office.

“The harm reduction approach and values of [#PartySaferMonth] align with the values of the SHAPE Office—how we create a world not only where harm doesn’t happen, and also how we meet everyone’s needs for care and support in navigating that world,” DeBari wrote in an email to The Argus.

However, #PartySaferMonth also extends beyond the offices at the University. Having curated social media content, coordinated messaging, planned Usdan tabling, and led a discussion called “Lessons from the War on Drugs to Harm Reduction Today” on Thursday, April 21, WesWell Student Intern Rebecca Berke ’23 emphasized that #PartySaferMonth has the potential to impact student life on campus.

“I hope that [#PartySaferMonth] will bring a new lens to party culture at Wesleyan and hopefully students will walk away with a better sense of how to be prepared to help themselves and others,” Berke ’23 wrote in an email to The Argus. “Additionally, I hope that students feel like they learned something new and also are aware of the resources WesWell has to offer. Specifically I hope they know that we are a judgment-free space that they can utilize for support.”

As #PartySaferMonth draws to a close, Johnson highlighted the support she received from her fellow collaborators and looks forward to its future iterations.

“[I] worked with campus partners to help put on this great month of events for the Wes Community,” Johnson wrote.“This is the first year of Party Safer Month and we hope that it becomes an annual tradition at Wes.”

To register for events or find more information on #PartySaferMonth, students can visit https://lnk.bio/WesWell

Rachel Wachman can be reached at rwachman@wesleyan.edu.