Students Learn About Effects of Toxic Drinking; Methods for Helping Peers in Distress

PHOTO: Nurse Mary Mulvihill assists students Daniel Miller and Chelsea MalzahnMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Toxic drinking has evolved into an epidemic on college campuses nationally, but a group of SUNY Orange students recently completed the new and innovative Red Watch Band Program that alerted them to the warning signs indicating when someone has consumed too much alcohol, and armed them with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for use in emergencies.

The mission of the Red Watch Band program is to provide campus community members with the knowledge, awareness and skills to prevent student toxic drinking deaths and to promote a student culture of kindness, responsibility, compassion and respect. It is estimated that 30,000 college students each year are treated after overdosing on alcohol.

A total of 16 students participated in the College’s initial one-day program this past fall semester. The workshop, based upon a curriculum established by SUNY Stony Brook, was directed by Elaine McClung, SUNY Orange’s coordinator of Health Services. Criminal Justice professor Robert Cacciatore guided the discussions on toxic drinking, warning signs and appropriate responses, and nurse Patricia Moore-Amante of the College’s Health Services Office provided the “Hands-Only” CPR training.

During the academic portion of the program, Cacciatore presented a curriculum designed to debunk three myths that create the foundation upon which the Red Watch Band program was created: binge drinking is just partying and nothing bad ever really happens; if someone passes out after alcohol use, it’s best just to let him or her sleep it off; and if I call for help, I or someone else might get in trouble for using alcohol.

Throughout the training, students were encouraged to “make the call” to 911 or emergency personnel when they felt someone was in danger. Too often, studies show, students leave their unconscious or severely incapacitated friends to “sleep it off” but the effects of the alcohol continue to build and the victims die from having ingested excessive amounts of alcohol.

“It’s scary to realize that there is such a fine line between ‘leaving them to sleep’ and ‘leaving them to die,’” said student Chelsea Malzahn of Sparrowbush. “The program taught me a lot that I didn’t know about the effects of alcohol, and it reinforced in my mind that if my friends go too far with their drinking, I need to ‘make the call’ to get help.

PHOTO: CPR Anytime kit“A lot of people are afraid to get help because they might get into trouble, or they feel like they will be guilty by association,” Malzahn continued. “But a life is much more important than getting in trouble from my parents, teachers or someone else.”

“The prevalence of binge drinking and alcohol-related injuries is increasing. The content of the program is eye-opening, but participants are given effective tools to identify symptoms and summon help when necessary,” Moore-Amante said, adding that a key component of the program was the CPR training.

Hands-Only CPR--CPR without breaths--is recommended for untrained bystanders to use on an adult victim who collapses. The American Heart Association says Hands-Only CPR allows bystanders to improve the odds of survival for victims of sudden cardiac arrest and other health problems. Each of the SUNY Orange participants received a “CPR Anytime” kit to keep, which included a Mini-Anne learning manikin, CPR Skills practice DVD and other CPR-related materials.

“By giving each student their own practice manikin, we hope that they will share the CPR training with their family and friends, allowing more people to understand how they can be prepared to assist someone in their time of need,” McClung added.

The College plans on offering the program again this spring and hopes to grow enrollment as word of the program spreads. For more information on the College’s program, contact the Health Services Office at (845) 341-4870. Information on the Red Watch Band program can be found at

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940