Introducing SSDP’s Oswego and Onondaga County Ambassador

A picture of Taylor Masterson '20

Post by Taylor Masterson ‘20, Oswego and Onondaga County SSDP Ambassador

How did you hear about SSDP?

I heard about SSDP after reaching out on a festival’s social media account regarding an accidental overdose that occurred during an event I attended in December of 2019. It appalled me that this festival and its promoters knew that drug use would occur at this event, yet they did not have proper education and resources in place, including testing kits and a safe place for young people to go to if they were having a challenging psychedelic experience. This was not the first festival I had been to where I had witnessed insufficient resources for the festival attendees. I pleaded for the other members of the festival community to point me to any resources and ways that I could get involved in advocacy in this area. I have always been passionate about drug reform due to my upbringing and other personal experiences, but I really could not believe that people were spending so much money to have the most magical experiences of their lives at these large events only to pass away at them, at the hands of who? All of us. That is the most recent experience that led me to get involved. It is time to make a change in the systems that have cost the lives of so many.

Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?

I covered a lot in the last question about what lead me to this place, but there is so much more behind my passion. I have worked in the Behavioral Health field and with at-risk populations since I was 13 at my parents’ non-profit organization and in inpatient mental health. I have worked as an advocate, peer specialist, and later started my own program for the homeless population in my community. While gaining this experience in crisis de-escalation, and many other related fields, I lost my aunt last July of 2019 whom I was very close to due to drug-related reasons. She passed away right before her 45th birthday. She struggled with substance abuse disorder for over 10 years, starting from prescription pain meds that she was given by her doctor. Later, she went to rehab and was sober for 2 and a half years before she passed. During those 2 and a half years she was prescribed methadone treatments, and many other medications for her bipolar disorder. At 44 she had recently broken her hip, had a stroke, and had many other health problems. After a bout of not being able to get proper sleep, she was prescribed sleeping medications, and that night she passed away in her sleep due to “unknown causes.” She told me that she felt her doctor had no plans of ever getting her off of methadone. She preached that the system was broken, and I firmly believe she passed away due to flaws in the core beliefs our society has around drug awareness and education.

What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.

Everyone I have talked to about SSDP has admired the values, goals, purpose, and intent of the chapter. People are looking forward to getting involved, and if they aren’t interested, they either know someone who is and/or supports it.

What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?

It’s important to me that I do outreach and gather a diverse group of open-minded people to help me on this journey. It is my hope to give said people I’m working with as many resources, tools, and as much useful information as possible. I also plan to do outreach on other platforms such as social media and google classrooms, and through connecting with nonprofits, leadership counsels, and forums to provide educational resources. I feel that this will be a great place to start and build important community connections.

What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?

With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, there are some challenges I may face with social distancing. I do hope using creative methods of outreach to bridge this gap and communicate effectively during this crisis will help aid in this challenge.

What is the most rewarding part?

Although I am just at the start of my inclusion, I know it will be rewarding to play a hand in educating and providing resources to the community and to be a part of making a positive change. I am looking forward to seeing the real-life effects of adequate community drug education.

What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region right now?

I am most excited to be able to share experiences and learn from one another about how we can most effectively make an impact on our community, I’m also excited to reach out and build important connections with the leaders in my area and provide helpful tools.

What is your vision for your SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?

My hope is to build many community connections and relationships so that we can learn and move forward with a common goal to the benefit of as many people as possible. This would include working in cooperation with local law enforcement, government officials, nonprofits, venues, and promoters in my area. From there, I believe anything is possible.