Mannequins lie in front of students participating in the WATCHDOG program, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Darlene Wendels / The Collegian
With the dangers of alcohol poisoning reaching far and wide across most college campuses, alcohol awareness programs such as WATCHDOG, which kickstarted Friday in the Henry Madden Library, are offered at Fresno State to educate students about how to recognize and respond in emergency situations.
Georgianna Negron-Long, health educator and coordinator of WATCHDOG, led the first training session of the fall semester covering various training methods related to alcohol overdose. Training covered CPR techniques, bystander effect, signs of alcohol poisoning and intervention procedures.
The program was launched in 2012 after the alcohol-related death of Phillip Dhanens, a Fresno State freshman who was rushing the Theta Chi fraternity, occurred in Greek housing.
“After the loss of Phillip Dhanens, who was a freshmen student, we wanted to reassess as a campus community what sort of efforts we currently had on campus so we could identify any gaps that might be remaining for additional education and programming,” Negron-Long said.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.
The idea for WATCHDOG came from another alcohol prevention program in Stonybrook University.
“I was brought in to create the WATCHDOG program, but made it more of a home-grown program,” Negron-Long said. “There was a need for more in-depth, educational training here on campus.”
Arcellie Santos, a program assistant and third-year graduate student in public health, said the program doesn’t want to discourage drinking, but rather encourage knowledge and information.
“Letting students know and training them to identify signs of alcohol poisoning is such an important skill since you never know when you might need it,” Santos said.
Elizabeth Lopez, a program assistant and second-year master’s student in public health, agrees with the importance of students knowing the dangers and signs of alcohol poisoning. She said she saw this as a great opportunity to implement new skills.
Negron-Long also mentioned that as an alcohol-awareness campaign, it’s important to reach out to fraternities and sororities on campus. However, she said it is still the responsibility of the person, not the Greek system, to control their alcohol intake.
“The purpose of fraternities is to enhance college experience; we do know they will throw parties and a lot of times they will be done perfectly safely,” Negron-Long said. “Regardless of age, you still have that choice as a person to be responsible.
“There are legal issues that could get you or other people in trouble and that’s a buzzkill — no one wants to bother with that.”
Since last year, the program has trained more than 100 students — including those involved in the Greek system, campus leadership programs and athletics. The program has also teamed up with other alcohol awareness campaigns to heed the message of alcohol poisoning information and prevention.
The program also advertises its message through merchandise and other items, which can be seen both on or near campus and online through the Fresno State health page.
“The theme that runs through our entire presentation and the programs we have is the idea of helping each other.” Negron-Long said. “We just want to give (students) some tools and information to help save their friends if they have to.”