In the summer of 2015 we expanded our Southeast Region to include the state of North Carolina. This has been a treat for me because it meant that I was given the opportunity to coordinate one of the fastest growing states in SSDP’s network. NC also happens to have one of the best medical amnesty laws and overdose prevention efforts of any state in the country. It also has (I would argue) the most effective harm reduction organization in the entire country in the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC). In short, North Carolina has been a bright spot in recent months and the leader of our newest chapter at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Brian Messina, has been a big part of that.
The most enjoyable part of my job is that I get to spend a huge chunk of time talking to and working with some of the brightest, most thoughtful, dedicated young people anyone in my position could hope for and I count Brian among them. He is self-starter, communicative, responsive and passionate. And, most impressively, it is evident to me that his motivation for joining SSDP is to enhance student safety on his campus and ensure, to the best of his ability, that his peers have an enjoyable experience as students even if they choose to use substances that often inspire stigma and the threat of law enforcement. All of this came across when I asked him why he decided to start an SSDP chapter. He told me, “I started this SSDP Chapter with the intention of creating a community where students can speak about their substance use entirely free of stigma, and positively influence attitudes about drug users and drug policy”. Beyond his desire to create a space for those conversations, his words also convey that he wants to translate that shift among NC State’s campus community into meaningful action. In our most recent conversation he told me that he is “excited to facilitate honest, open discussions about drug use and drug policy on NC State’s Campus”.
This is the third iteration of a long history of SSDP chapters at NC State. Brian and I are fortunate enough to have the support of some of those NCSU SSDP Alumni as we move forward together. This, coupled with the amazing work that NCHRC is doing, will allow NCSU SSDP to pursue campus medical amnesty with a fervor that chapters in many other states can not, due to the legal climate in those states. With all of us working together, I look forward to seeing what Brian and his already growing SSDP chapter are able to accomplish at NCSU and beyond!