How SSDP connected me to direct service work

Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Pittsburgh began our relationship with Prevention Point Pittsburgh in the early fall of 2017, shortly after our chapter was founded, when some of our members chose to become trained as syringe exchange program volunteers.

The volunteering I have done with Prevention Point Pittsburgh has taken place at their indoor syringe exchange program site, or on their mobile van, and has ranged from assembling naloxone kits and bags of sterile works and supplies for participants, to assisting participants in determining what supplies and/or services they feel they need, to working as a social work intern with this organization.  As an intern, I am shadowing Alice Bell, Overdose Prevention Project Coordinator, as she develops new projects, speaks to members of the Pittsburgh community regarding the issues facing Prevention Point Pittsburgh’s participants, and ensures that the organization’s day to day operations run smoothly. Currently, my work mainly consists of ensuring that participants understand how to use, and have access to, naloxone kits and fentanyl test strips, as well as packing small bags of sterile works to be distributed to people who inject drugs who are also experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh.

Prevention Point Pittsburgh became a key local supporter of  Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Pittsburgh’s Decriminalize Safety campaign in the summer and fall of 2018; the campaign aims at decriminalizing syringes and drug testing materials in the state of Pennsylvania by removing these items from the definition of “drug paraphernalia” in Section 2 of the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act of 1992.  The staff at My New Leaf Inc., the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition, and Prevention Point Pittsburgh all provided valuable help and resources as we collected petition signatures and hosted a rally for our cause. This is a project that our chapter continues to focus on in conjunction with our supporters.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Pittsburgh continues to support Prevention Point Pittsburgh through members volunteering, attending fundraisers, and organizing clothing drives to benefit participants.  The work that Prevention Point Pittsburgh does is absolutely invaluable in our community, and I am not sure I would have ever become connected with them, something that has become a very important part of my life both personally and professionally, if it was not for first becoming connected with the University of Pittsburgh’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.