When I first met Amanda Muller ’10, I was lying on a table to be a demonstration body for a naloxone training. The course of my undergraduate career changed after Amanda used me for a sternal rub demonstration and inspired my career pursuits. My impromptu drive from the University of Tennessee to Charleston, South Carolina, was under the pretext that I could connect with regional SSDP chapters and learn more about policy activism. Scott Cecil ’10, my beloved outreach coordinator, convinced me that I would meet incredible reformers including former Board Chair- Amanda Muller, Robert Childs of North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Jeremy Sharp, and our very own Betty Aldworth. During that weekend, I gained a sense of urgency for my work, a support system for my pursuits, and friendships that I cherish even as we are separated by thousands of miles.
Returning from my first SSDP Regional Conference I was sent into a whirlwind of ideas and action. The following year I worked non-stop organizing around my campus and state for cannabis reform and expanded access to naloxone and researching these topics so I could be an effective activist. It was through the support of my outreach coordinator that I pursued every opportunity and chased each lead that guided me to more drug policy work. With the help of Scott, I built a network of friends around the world who I turn to often for advice and inspiration.
The second time I met Amanda Muller was amidst the craziness of the SSDP Board of Directors elections at 2016 National Conference. I knew Amanda was a rockstar by the way she effortlessly spoke in front of hundreds of people and through the thoughtfulness she showed in communicating with those around her, namely rookie SSDPers. Although she didn’t know it, Amanda’s position as Board Chair motivated me to follow in her footsteps and run for the Board.
During the summer of 2016, I spent time in D.C. There, I was able to connect with numerous SSDPers and build friendships seamlessly among students and alumni from all over the country. That’s what so great about the SSDP network; you can enter a city alone, but leave with your heart full of friends and the renewed vigor to reform drug policy.
When I accepted my current position at the Florida Department of Children and Families in Amanda’s Overdose Prevention program, I knew I was taking on more than just a job. Although only having met Amanda twice, and briefly at that, I was confident that the SSDP ties that bind would produce a productive work environment and an instant friendship. My position was a dream job – working with an SSDPer, in a government office where we positively influence the discussion on harm reduction and stigma by promoting alternative models for drug policy and expanded access to services.
It’s coming up on six months since I moved to Tallahassee, Florida, to work with Amanda. Every day I get to observe my friend and colleague fight for the lives of drug users. While I work alongside her to save lives across the state of Florida by expanding access to naloxone and providing overdose prevention education, I’m reminded that we wouldn’t be the dynamic-naloxone duo without that Saturday in Charleston, South Carolina, when I posed in the recovery position and tried not to crack a smile when receiving a sternal rub.
This blog post is part of our annual SSDP Alumni Association membership drive. Join the Alumni Association before Friday, May 26 and be entered to win a free SSDP2018 conference registration or a $50 Amazon gift card!