Penn Public Health and Wellbeing is overseeing its first semester of programming for its Substance Use Prevention Education and Recovery initiative, or "S.U.P.E.R." for short.
The goal of S.U.P.E.R. is to reach students that are abstaining from substance use, in recovery, or interested in learning more about harm reduction practices, Public Health and Wellbeing health educator Trainor Macrone said. Penn Wellness has employed a team of specialists that work with students to promote intervention and harm reduction education and practices.
“We don’t necessarily practice abstinence or sobriety,” Macrone said. “We just want students to be safe when they are using substances.”
Macrone said that through S.U.P.E.R., Public Health and Wellbeing hosts substance-free events that are ideal for students who want to engage in social activity without feeling pressure to partake in substance use.
“We’re trying to do those once a month, on Fridays during the 10-to-midnight time period,” Macrone said. She added that the S.U.P.E.R. events provide an organized, substance-free alternative for students on the main going-out night of the week.
At the first S.U.P.E.R. event of the semester, which was held in Houston Hall, students watched the movie “Hocus Pocus” and engaged in a raffle for a free Disney+ membership. At the next event, which will be held on Oct. 28 at the Penn Women’s Center, students can participate in a haunted gingerbread house-making competition, according to Macrone.
Public Health and Wellbeing program coordinator Jaclyn Recktenwald said that Wellness has received “really good feedback” about the first event. She added that although the first two events were “spooky themed,” the theme will change throughout the academic year.
“The alternative events are something that we’re really happy to do again, as we’re in the new phase of gathering in person again,” Recktenwald said.
While S.U.P.E.R. has just begun to hold in-person events this semester, Macrone said S.U.P.E.R.'s mission began under a different name last year within Penn Wellness’s harm reduction programming. Past substance abuse-related education was organized through the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs — which is now a part of Penn Wellness.
The harm reduction education focus under S.U.P.E.R. has, by contrast, become more student-led. For example, students can partake in a “choose your own adventure” harm reduction workshop called "A S.U.P.E.R. Night Out."
During "A S.U.P.E.R. Night Out," Macrone said students can choose from a variety of ways to take their night out safely. The workshop also facilitates a group discussion about how students can stay safe in the presence of substances and how to take care of themselves and each other.
Over the past summer, Macrone said S.U.P.E.R. has evolved to include education and support for students in recovery who are abstaining from substance usage.
“We created S.U.P.E.R. to include the recovery piece, as well as the prevention and education piece, of substance use. So it got its name this year,” Macrone said, adding that S.U.P.E.R. also got its iconic cactus graphic identifier this year as well.
All S.U.P.E.R. programming will include the cactus graphic as an identifier for students to recognize that an event is substance-free and added that she is working with other offices to implement the cactus graphic in their event advertising.
“Life can be a bit bumpy and hard sometimes, but beautiful things can still grow out of it, which is why [the graphic] is a potted cactus with a flower,” Macrone said.
Recktenwald said that student privacy is critical to the mission and success of S.U.P.E.R. and “meeting students where they’re at.”
“If there are negative consequences from substance use, wherever students are at in their harm reduction or abstinence journey, we want to support them, and a huge part of that is allowing them the privacy and the space they need to have that discovery on their own,” Recktenwald said. The S.U.P.E.R. team works closely with Student Intervention Services and Special Services within the Division of Public Safety, she added.
“It really matters to us that students feel safe coming to us and that those types of interactions are private,” Recktenwald said. Although Public Health and Wellbeing does not have the clinical level of confidentiality, the substance use specialists at S.U.P.E.R. work closely with clinicians at Student Health and Counseling who do have an added level of confidentiality.
S.U.P.E.R. has also partnered with Penn’s student-run Medical Emergency Response Team to offer training to students on how to administer Naloxone to someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose and how to use fentanyl test strips to see if a substance contains fentanyl.