The SSDP network is seeing a surge of activity in the state of Alabama, with students working to form chapters on 4 campuses around the state this semester. Dana Ullrich is a part of that surge. She is our newest chapter founder at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) where she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Dana is determined to recruit enough members to engage in some policy change campaigns on the UAB campus. But her passion lies in harm reduction and education of the campus community. As a graduate student, Dana feels a responsibility to make sure that undergraduate students, many of whom may be exposed to drugs (including alcohol) for the first time as UAB students, have the information they need to make sensible choices on and off of campus.
I first met Dana at the Southern Harm Reduction Conference, in Asheville, North Carolina, earlier this year. At that conference, I also met Ralph Hendrix, a teacher at UAB who has gone on to become the SSDP faculty advisor for the UAB SSDP chapter. Having Mr. Hendrix as an SSDP advisor is very exciting due to his background in criminal justice reform and prison reform. He is currently the Program Manager of Jefferson County Community Correction Program, providing services for approximately 1200 felony offenders, including re-entry, prison diversion and alternative sentencing. He serves on a subcommittee of the Alabama Sentencing Commission to determine sentencing standards for new presumptive sentencing guidelines established by the Alabama legislature in 2012. His main focus as a professional and an activist has been to reduce the recidivism rates of Alabamians under correctional control. His efforts have been widely recognized, publicized and praised.
In June, Ralph backed efforts to pass HB 208, a medical amnesty & Naloxone access bill through the Alabama legislature and signed into law. He and Dana are now going to be working on passing campus level changes at UAB and starting a dialogue about how to make the campus community safer. This includes an agenda of engaging other student organizations and the UAB student government association about a campus-level Good Samaritan Policy.
With Dana and Ralph’s experiences and determination, I have no doubt that UAB will go on to become one of our most successful chapters in the southeast region and provide a model for how SSDP chapters can function in deep red, conservative southern states. It is very exciting to know that Dana and Ralph have found one another and will have the opportunity to bring lasting change to an exceptionally conservative campus that is in dire need of more sensible policies.