ISLA VISTA, Calif.— A peer driven UCSB organization dedicated to helping students with substance abuse celebrated their 10th anniversary with a free art and music festival Saturday.

We spoke with gauchos for recovery about the work they’re doing to heal the community.

As the national Fentanyl crisis continues to escalate, many UCSB students are taking it upon themselves to be the solution.

In July of 2021, Phoebe Alva’s life changed forever.

“ I had no idea when my brother was struggling with substance dependency, I didn’t know that he was addicted and I didn’t know that he was possibly at risk of overdosing and passing away at 22 years old,” said “Gauchos for Recovery” Overdose Prevention Peer Phoebe Alva.

Now Alva is honoring her late brother Tristan’s legacy through the work she does with Gauchos for Recovery.

“I’m so proud that people can text me or DM me and be like, Can I get some Narcan? Can I have Fentynal test strips? Because I’m able to be a resource for people to keep themselves and their friends safe,” said Alva.

Alva says part of that solution involves destigmatizing substance dependence so that people feel open to receiving help.

“People are using. People are experimenting, so giving them Narcan to keep in their house just in case is going to be so much more effective than making this broad statement That’s like stop using drugs,” said Alva.

That’s why Alva centered the conversation around Narcan and Fentynal test strips at gauchos for recovery’s 2nd annual art and music festival for harm reduction.

This festival featured over 20 art vendors, live music, a thrift sale, and several campus organization all with the goal of uniting the community and celebrating recovery, and holding space for community healing.

“We’re not looking to tell people what they can and can’t do, but what we try to do is just go to events like this or try to get awareness about safe practices, educate people so that when they make their own choices, they can make safe choices because they’ve learned a little bit more about what they’re doing,” said “Life of the Party” Intern Brian Kwong.

“I really commend this generation for taking a different approach on how to have discussions about healthy ways to support each other during crisis, and that it’s okay to be in recovery,” said IVRPD General Manager Kimberly Kiefer.

Gauchos for Recovery passed out hundreds of overdose prevention kits, which included naloxone and Fentynal test strips.

They hope that students will continue to embrace the message to be somebody other people feel they can come to if they’re struggling.

By Mina Wahab/KEYT

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