DanceSafe is a 501(c)(3) public health organization promoting health and safety within the nightlife and electronic music community. Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998 by Emanuel Sferios, DanceSafe quickly grew into a national organization with chapters in cities across North America.
DanceSafe has two fundamental operating principles: harm reduction and peer-based, popular education. Combining these two principles has enabled us to create successful, peer-based educational programs to reduce drug misuse and empower young people to make healthy, informed lifestyle choices. We are known for bringing adulterant screening (a.k.a., “pill testing,” “drug checking”) to the rave and nightlife community in the U.S., and for distributing unbiased educational literature describing the effects and risks associated with the use of various drugs. We also started the only publicly accessible laboratory analysis program for ecstasy in North America, currently hosted and managed by Erowid at EcstasyData.org. We neither condone nor condemn drug use. Rather, we provide a non-judgmental perspective to help support people who use drugs in making informed decisions about their health and safety.
Our Initiatives and Services
- Provide safe spaces to engage in conversations about health, drug use, and personal safety;
- Provide free water and electrolytes to prevent dehydration and heatstroke;
- Provide free safe sex tools to avoid unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STIs;
- Provide free ear plugs to prevent hearing loss;
- Provide honest, fact-based, unbiased information on drug effects and potential harms to empower users to make informed decisions;
- Offer a nonjudgmental first-point of contact to risky or challenging situations;
- Offer drug checking services to prevent overdose and death; and
- Work with promoters and local stakeholders to advocate for safety first approaches.
Note: Our information and services are directed primarily towards non-addicted, recreational drug users. Non-addicted drug users are an under-served population within the harm reduction movement, despite the fact that they comprise the vast majority of drug users in our society. While many organizations exist that provide services to drug-dependent individuals, few groups address the needs of the majority of non-addicted, recreational users. We hope to fill this gap. When needed, we will always refer people to appropriate treatment programs.
We currently have local chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Our local chapters consist of young people from within the dance culture who have a sincere interest in ensuring the health and safety of their communities and educating themselves and their peers. We train our volunteers to be health educators and drug abuse prevention counselors within their own communities, utilizing the principles and methods of harm reduction and popular education. Check out our Local Chapters page to find a chapter near you.
Staff and Board of Directors
Mitchell Gomez – Executive Director
Mitchell Gomez is a graduate of New College of Florida (whose Alumni included the founders of Erowid, MAPS and the Zendo Project), and has his Masters from CU Denver. Although his research interests are extremely diverse, he is particularly interested in program evaluation and policy analysis as it pertains to the non-profit sector. Mitchell has been a part of the electronic music community since the late 90’s, when he first started attending underground breaks shows while still in high-school. In 1999 while living in Israel, he became one of the earliest full time professional fire spinners, eventually performing at some of the biggest electronic music events on four continents. Mitchell joined Dancesafe as their National Outreach Director in 2014 and was responsible for all volunteer coordination, the development, implementation, and evaluation of new training curriculum and outreach initiatives, and administrative tasks. He has volunteered with the Burning Man organization, The Zendo Project, SSDP and other small harm reduction projects for many years, and is a passionate advocate for reality-based drug policy and harm reduction. In March of 2017 he was promoted to Executive Director of DanceSafe, and continues to remain active in outreach activities.
Madalyn McElwain – Deputy Director
Madalyn McElwain has her bachelor’s in public relations from Colorado State University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Madalyn’s interest in public health and harm reduction started during her undergraduate years as an intern for a melanoma awareness and prevention nonprofit. In 2012, she became Director of her law school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, where she hosted free educational events with organizations like the Harm Reduction Action Center, Colorado’s clean needle exchange program. Madalyn hopes to help bridge the gap in knowledge that exists around drug use by sparking honest dialogue about how to mitigate harm when people choose to use drugs. She believes that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal issue, and is dedicated to ending the War on Drugs. Madalyn is licensed to practice law in the state of Colorado and has extensive knowledge in the aspects of both nonprofit operations and drug policy. For six years, she served on the Board of Directors for CHOICE Education Foundation, a nonprofit that provides full ride scholarships to low-income Colorado high school seniors. As a lifelong Colorado resident, Madalyn has been an active participant in the EDM and nightlife communities since 2006.
Kristin Karas – Director of Programs
Kristin Karas completed her B.S. in Public Health Studies with a concentration in Community Health at East Carolina University. Her involvement in DanceSafe started in 2014 as a member of the original DanceSafe Visionaries cohort. Since joining the team, Kristin has held the titles of Visionary, Volunteer, Intern, Visionaries Program Coordinator, Manager of Health Communications and Programs, and now acts as the Director of Programs. In her first year alone, Kristin managed a grant which funded a public health campaign to increase awareness regarding the RAVE Act, organized the first DanceSafe auction, revamped the Visionaries Program, piloted and launched the DanceSafe Training Program (a free online volunteer training program), and provided health services at several national events including TomorrowWorld, Lightning in a Bottle, Imagine Music Festival, EDC Las Vegas, and Hulaween. In addition to her involvement with DanceSafe, Kristin also founded the Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter on East Carolina’s campus and participated in the Model United Nations General Assembly Second Session hosted at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in 2015. These experiences coupled with her work with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse, and Insomniac’s Ground Control Team allow her to bring a background in both harm reduction and drug policy to DanceSafe. In the near future, she intends on obtaining her Masters of Public Health as a means to reach her goals of normalizing harm reduction practices and ending the War on Drugs.
Chelsea Rose, Customer Service and Product Manager
Chelsea Rose graduated from UCLA Honors College with a BA in Psychology in 2007 and from there, proceeded to get her Masters degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2012. She has found a passion for Harm Reduction as a therapeutic and practical approach to drug use and abuse prevention. She is a coordinator for the Zendo Project, which attends large events to provide a safe space for people going through difficult experiences, both substance related and otherwise. She is also an intern at her local high school and community college, where she provides crisis counseling to teenagers and young adults. Her management skills and enthusiasm for helping people in the festival community and beyond, through informed therapeutic means, makes her an asset to the Harm Reduction movement. She lives in the Sierra Foothills of California with her husband, Alex, who is also involved in Harm Reduction, their three children and a Lazer Beam, their bearded dragon lizard.
Board of Directors
Dina Perrone, PhD – President
Dr. Dina Perrone is an assistant professor in the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, Emergency Management at California State University, Long Beach. She earned two BAs from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and both her MA and PhD in Criminal Justice from the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University-Newark. She was a NIDA-funded Behavioral Sciences Training Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. Her research focuses on drug using patterns and harms with the goal of informing drug policy. Her book, The High Life: Club Kids, Harm and Drug Policy, describes drug use in NYC nightlife, and her other work investigates the use of novel psychoactive substances including salvia divinorum and synthetic cannabis.
Bryan Oley – CFO/CTO
Bryan Oley was a founder of the Sacramento California Dancesafe chapter which started in 1999. At the request of the founder, he then created and staffed the Dancesafe Online Information Booth (an extremely popular series of forums providing a space to discuss Harm Reduction and safety) which ran from 2001 – 2010 and had just over 20,000 active users participating in online harm reduction discussions and spreading education to those in need. He also held the role of Board President from 2001 – 2010. Named Board President in 2001 when the founder (Emanuel Sferios) stepped down, he presides over the organization and has served multiple roles including Executive Director, CFO and CIO. He continues to act as the Board President of the organization while also working with a variety of operations roles to ensure the ongoing stability of the organization itself.
Chalaina Connors, MA, LPC
Chalaina Connors runs the Portland DanceSafe chapter, and has been active with DanceSafe since 1999. She has been a member of the electronic dance community since the same time frame and feels very connected to this community and is passionate about helping people feel safe and have healthy relationships throughout their lives. In her professional life, she is a mental health therapist and she primarily works with teenagers and young adults in a wide range of issues; such as substance use, sexuality, and issues surrounding trauma, depression, anxiety, and unhealthy relationships.
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