Opioid, marijuana, and alcohol impairment goggles used to engage and educate.
COVID-19 has disrupted all our lives. For New England College in New Hampshire, the pandemic delayed its use of three Fatal Vision® product kits — the Marijuana Campaign Kit, the Alcohol Campaign Kit, and the Opioid Program Kit — for two years. But this spring, the college was finally able to use Fatal Vision® goggles with students.
“We bought the products before COVID,” explained James Gallagher, director of New England College’s Counseling Center. “The college hadn’t used the Fatal Vision® products until this spring at River Day.”
Gallagher explains that there had been significant staff turnover at the Counseling Center, so the center’s four staff members, including Gallagher, are relatively new to their positions. He’s been the director since January 2022. New staff members eagerly planned to initiate the use of the goggle products with students at the school’s April 29th all-campus event, River Day.
The college, which lies outside of Concord, NH, has a diverse residential student population of about 1,000. Its graduate school is strictly online. Initially geared to educate veterans, the college’s mission has grown since its inception.
“About 35 to 40% are students of color,” said Gallagher. He added that the school also attracts a significant number of first-generation and low-income college students and continues to serve veterans. Students, he noted, do come with alcohol and drug abuse concerns. The Counseling Center staff is determined to meet the needs of all their students, and part of that outreach would involve Fatal Vision® goggles.
During River Day, the college cancels classes, brings food trucks onto campus, and “town fair”-style activities rule the day, according to Gallagher. “Most of the campus comes out for it,” he said. It seemed like a perfect way to launch the use of Fatal Vision® goggle kits.
Shawna Otis, mental health counselor, set up the Opioid Program Kit’s “Get It 2Gether” puzzle activities in the booth, along with the Marijuana Goggles and a mock game of beer pong with the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Goggles.
“About 100 to 200 students engaged with us on River Day,” Otis said. “The goggles got people engaged. They were shocked by how ‘impaired’ they were during the activities. It blew their minds.”
The depth of participation surprised Otis. Some students had a chance to try to walk while wearing the alcohol impairment goggles. Otis recalled that one student — who was not a drinker — had trouble just standing up while wearing them. The student was astonished at her reaction.
“Word got around campus after the event,” Otis said, “Which I’m grateful for because, like with many school communities, there is certainly drug and alcohol use, and we are proactively and educationally addressing those behaviors.”
Although COVID has made it challenging to gauge drug and alcohol use on campus, Otis estimated that they get between five and ten infractions per month. These can be as minor as holding an open beer on campus to substance abuse. A lower-level infraction requires attending an education course. A more serious infraction may require a substance abuse evaluation.
Otis is eager to use the Fatal Vision® goggle kits again. “It’s a nice way to connect with students,” she said. “It’s enjoyable. Students’ guards drop.”
While she is not “playing therapist” during events like these, Otis can still offer students help and a chance to talk.
“The goggles are easy to use,” she added. “I love that the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) and impairment are labeled right on the front of the goggle.”
Gallagher said that the Counseling Center intends to incorporate the Fatal Vision® goggle kits into plans for the future. Students under educational sanction for drinking or drugs will encounter the kits in the center’s education programs. Gallagher noted that this would be a regular, ongoing way the college will use the kits throughout the year. They plan to use the kits this fall to educate new students during freshman orientation. The kits’ use will continue during River Day.
In addition, Gallagher intends to launch a fall program new to New England College he called the peer education program. “It will be launched this fall almost as a course,” he explained. “Each group of students will pick a topic to focus on.”
Gallagher expects alcohol and drug abuse to be hot topics for many of the student groups. The Fatal Vision® drug and alcohol impairment goggle kits will go a long way to educating students examining those topics.