On-campus alcohol recovery room aims to ensure ‘every Gryphon goes home safe’

Operated as a pilot project last school year, University of Guelph students who have over-consumed alcohol have a room on campus that allows them a place to recover under supervision by volunteers trained in First Aid.

The Campus Alcohol Recovery Room (CARR) is a volunteer-operated space on campus that allows students a place to recover from excessive alcohol consumption while remaining under the observation of volunteers.  CARR is a six-bed harm-reduction initiative located at the lobby of the Lambton Hall residences, said Irene Thompson, director of Student Housing Services for the university.

“This is a really good system where people who have consumed too much can be monitored until it’s safe for them to go back to the student residences,” said Thompson.

CARR is billed as ‘a nonjudgmental space that is used to ensure every Gryphon goes home safe’.  This is the first school year that the room will be operated in both semesters.

“If they and their peers are all consuming, then you can’t rely on a peer to understand when someone may be getting into trouble by overconsuming. It’s nice to be able to have them diverted to here and have somebody else that is watching out for them — making sure they are breathing, that their heart is beating,” said Thompson.

CARR is operated in partnership with Student Wellness Services and the university’s First Response Team.  The students staying at CARR tend to have been overconsuming alcohol, said Thompson, and are assessed upon arrival.   Students can be referred to the room by Residence Life staff or treat it as a walk-in service.

Staying at CARR is confidential and the students who use it will not be fined for underage drinking.  “We want to ensure it’s going to be safe for them to stay here, so if there are any underlying medical concerns they may have then they are referred elsewhere,” said Thompson.  She added, “if we are recognizing signs that indicate alcohol poisoning or something else, that we are calling for the paramedics to come and provide support for those students.”

The room is open Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., staffed by volunteers looking to be full members of the First Response Team.  “It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to work and support their fellow students, get some experience that will help them become full-fledged members somewhere down the road,” said Thompson.

The room is also staffed on ‘high activity’ days, like Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. Thompson said this year’s Homecoming celebration is the only time the room’s six beds were filled to capacity.  “There are students that choose to drink in their rooms and they would come here as well because their friends may be concerned for their safety,” said Thompson.

Last semester, a total of 51 stays were recorded at CARR. Of those stays, two people were sent to hospital.  “That could have been when they showed up here or it could be that while they were here we had to refer them,” said Thompson.

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