BY KATE TURNER ’21
This week marked the 40th anniversary of Mount Holyoke’s Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program (ADAP). To celebrate the occasion, ADAC, or the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Committee — an offshoot organization of the college-run program — is holding several awareness-raising events, including a reading by Anita Devlin, the author of “S.O.B.E.R.*,” free training with Narcan kits for emergency response in the case of an opioid overdose and a history exhibit which will be featured in the library for the upcoming weeks.
Mount Holyoke’s ADAP program was one of the first of its kind not only in the Pioneer Valley, but also in the country. It was founded in 1977, years before the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act was passed. It required all institutions of higher education to implement similar programs. Neorgia Grant ’20, a member of ADAC, noted that being “one of the first” means that ADAP was also historically significant in “addressing the fact that women can and have been affected by substance use, and that it does not only affect men.”
Jennifer Balut, director of ADAP, said she hopes the organization’s anniversary will help call attention to ADAP’s larger goals. “I am honored to be part of a program that was one of the first established in this country designed to provide comprehensive alcohol education and support specifically for college women,” she said. “For me, this anniversary is a time not only to celebrate 40 years of awareness, support, and recovery — it’s a time to educate the greater campus community as to what ADAP is.”
And what is ADAP, really? According to Balut, it’s a comprehensive program which provides a wide range of educational, counseling and support services for students regarding alcohol and other drugs. A branch of Mount Holyoke health services, the ADAP program is open and available to all students and faculty, whether or not they have been referred to the program as the result of a disciplinary infraction.
“Statistically, one in three families are impacted by substance use and addiction,” she said. “But despite the statistics, substance use disorders and addiction often remain misunderstood, which prevents all people impacted by substance use from seeking help.”
Removing that stigma is a key part of what ADAP —- and, by extension, ADAC — attempts to do. “Educating our community, providing support when in need and helping people find their path to recovery,” Grant explained. “That encompasses the very essence of what we do.”
The event that featured Anita Devlin on Wednesday is an example of such efforts. Coordinated by ADAC and hosted in Gamble Auditorium, Devlin spoke about the events that inspired her memoir, “S.O.B.E.R.*,” (styled as an acronym for Son Of a Bitch, Everything’s Real) which she co-wrote with her son, describing from both of their perspectives the story of his struggle with addiction and eventual recovery.
The reading was followed by a Q&A session panel with Devlin, Balut, Laurie Loisel from Hampshire HOPE (Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education) and Mary Julian from Learn to Cope.
Balut hopes that Devlin’s story will “start a conversation here on campus” and “forge a deeper understanding of the ways substance use disorders impact all of our lives, whether you choose to use them at all.”
“Too often, conversations surrounding drugs and alcohol are stigmatized,” Grant said. “In truth, these conversations are opportunities for all of us to learn, engage, empathize and foster growth.” She explained that the goal of ADAC was not to promote a specific set of choices. “ADAC advocates for a substance free lifestyle and also for moderation if an individual does use substances,” she said. “We want to help students live their best life, without drugs and alcohol being a hinderance — whether they use them or not.”
“My sense is that ADAP historically has been perceived as preaching abstinence or only for those that identify as having a problem with substance use,” Balut continued. “This is incorrect. Substance use is a continuum from zero use to daily use. ADAP’s educational efforts are designed to support students in making informed choices.”
“We are made up of individuals from different groups in Mount Holyoke’s community which allows for an inclusive approach to issues surrounding drugs and alcohol that arise on campus,” said Grant of ADAC. Meanwhile, working directly with administration and staff allows the committee to create events targeting the entire Mount Holyoke community in a comprehensive way.
This effort goes beyond merely anniversary-related events. ADAC has worked closely with administration on various first-year orientation workshops including Aware Today, Alive Tomorrow, and, according to Balut, “various large-scale educational events such as ‘Hungry Heart.’”
Sasha Nyary, from Mount Holyoke’s communications department, said that Mount Holyoke continues to be at the forefront of comprehensive substance use prevention programs that speak to women’s issues. But Balut expressed some sense of disconnect between ADAP and student awareness of the program’s aims and services. If she could send a message to all Mount Holyoke community members, Balut said, it would be that, “ADAP’s services are free, confidential and available to all MHC students.”
Grant’s message would be equally simple, echoing the message of the anniversary series. “Join the voices,” she said. “Break the silence.”