October 27, 2016
It’s an important moment: Insomniac Events, one of the biggest EDM festival producers in the U.S., is beginning to embrace drug education and harm reduction. This Halloween weekend marks the debut of “Project #OpenTalk” at the Escape: Psycho Circus festival in San Bernardino, California. It’s an onsite service that will allow attendees to receive honest, unbiased information about drugs, sex and mental health concerns.
Project #OpenTalk was designed in response to drug-related hospitalizations and deaths at festivals, particularly in the electronic music community in Southern California. While Insomniac, like other festival production companies, still has a zero tolerance drug policy and conducts entry searches, they have at least acknowledged that more needs to be done to keep their attendees informed and safe. The service will allow Escape attendees, called “Headliners” by Insomniac, to approach a booth onsite at the event and ask trained peer educators questions related to drugs, sex or mental health.
It’s an exciting new partnership. Insomniac hasn’t worked with an advocacy group to address drug use issues in over a decade – in part as a result of the chilling effect of the RAVE Act. Now they’re joining forces with DPA’s Safer Partying campaign as well as Healthy Nightlife, a company run by former DanceSafe executive director Missi Wooldridge, to take a realistic and compassionate approach to drug use and other challenges that music festival attendees face.
This is just a start, but it’s an important one. The hope is that Insomniac will expand on this going forward – and that Insomniac’s move will open the way for others to follow.
We need to share news of this venture – it may mark a turning of the tide toward practical and compassionate drug education and harm reduction services at more festivals and events across the U.S.
And ultimately, that will mean #SaferPartying all over.
No matter where you are, I hope you have a safe and fun Halloween weekend.
Stefanie Jones is director of DPA’s Safer Partying campaign.