PA Stop Innovator: Duquesne University

PA Stop bus shelter on Pittsburgh’s Southside

Our latest PA Stop Innovator is Dr. Daniel Gittins, Associate Director of DU CARES at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. We’re proud to share his ideas and hope to inspire other Pennsylvania colleges and universities to take PA Stop and make it their own.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION. WHAT DO YOU DO? WHO DO YOU SERVE?

Duquesne University is a four year private university. I am the Associate Director of DU Cares, which is the alcohol and other drug education program at Duquesne. We serve undergraduate and graduate students in the greater Duquesne community. I am housed under Residence Life, which I happen to think is a great model. My office is in one of the residence halls. I can collaborate with the residence life staff as well as the RAs. I can go into the residence floors and do programs and trainings.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN USING PA STOP IN YOUR WORK?

Since July of 2018, so about four months. We were a mini grant recipient this year. We went to the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance conference in State College in early June, which is where we learned about the opportunity. We applied and received funding in July, so we started using the campaign then.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE WAYS THAT YOU HAVE UTILIZED PA STOP TO SPREAD INFORMATION ABOUT OPIOIDS.

Our approach is “reach and push.” Our goal is to reach as many students as we possibly can and push them to the PA Stop website for general information or specific treatment referral info if they need it.

We’re taking a multifaceted approach. We ordered a transit bus shelter on Pittsburgh’s Southside, where a lot of our commuter students live. It’s in a high traffic area, so a lot of our students who are walking to campus will pass it. For the bus shelter, we selected the “Care Enough Not to Share” slogan, focusing on prescription drugs. That’ll be up for four weeks this fall.

We also have run similar ads in the school newspaper, which will reach not just our students but the whole university community, including faculty and staff. So that’s the print media.

Currently, I am trying to figure out a radio campaign with the readymade PA Stop PSA that features Bruce Kraus, the president of Pittsburgh City Council. Our marketing communications department have been enormously helpful—they have been helping me coordinate with local radio stations.

We’ve also been using a lot of promotional materials that we’ve purchased. We’ve got water bottles that have the “Don’t Add to the Numbers” slogan and say “pastop.org.” I’ve also ordered 2,500 nail files. They say “Don’t share prescription drugs” and “Learn more at pastop.org.” I like nail files as giveaways: they’re cheap, they’re plentiful, and people will use them. I also got—which I think are cool—dry erase decals that students can put on their dorm doors. They aren’t stickers; they peel off very easily, so they don’t damage the door. They say “pastop.org,” to push people toward the website. And sanitizer sprays for cell phones—we have purchased and branded those, as well.

These are all popular giveaways for our population of mainly college students. I try to be on the front end of the curve for giveaways. Everything we’ve ordered is pretty cheap, but it’s not something that is commonly given away.

The other component—which is very important—is face-to-face promotion. For instance, we do a soda tasting for Alcohol Awareness Week. I get 30 varieties of sodas. Birches and ginger beer, but also funny flavors, like bacon-flavored soda. Buffalo wing sauce. Beef teriyaki. We do the soda-tasting in the student union lobby, which is a high traffic area. And all of our materials, including PA Stop information and giveaways, is right there on the tables. When we have face-to-face interactions, we can talk about these things.

We also have a number of face-to-face Halloween events coming up. The Saturday night before Halloween, we are throwing a party and will hand out flyers and brochures. On Halloween during the day, we are doing a flash mob to “Thriller” and we’ll hand out these materials. And finally, on Halloween night, we’re going to screen “The Shining” and again, we will hand out materials and information.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST EXCITING OR SUCCESSFUL WAYS THAT PA STOP HAS HELPED YOU ACHIEVE YOUR MISSION?

My motto is always “visibility is credibility.” The more I’m out talking about drugs and addiction, the more comfortable my students are asking questions and trying to get help when they need it.

I think the trick is to be creative and meet people where they’re at. PA Stop is helping us do that. PA Stop helps us communicate that our services are not fear-based, they’re about “how do we help you?” We’re getting information out there so that our population knows where to go if they need help.

We don’t want them to wait until a moment of crisis. I want it to be tucked somewhere in their brain.

WE ARE TRYING TO HELP ORGANIZATIONS AND SINGLE COUNTY AUTHORITIES UNDERSTAND HOW THEY CAN USE PA STOP IN THEIR COMMUNITIES. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE OR WORDS OF WISDOM, BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE?

Perseverance. Stick-to-itiveness. The prescription drug issue didn’t come upon us overnight and it’s not going away overnight. It’s up to us to be consistent and persistent.

We are quite pleased with the grant. It’s given us a chance to reach out with an important message with funding that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.