Report Cites Success of Initiatives to Curb Underage Drinking
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Jan. 7, 2009) – Alcohol risk reduction initiatives are contributing to lower percentages of students who engage in underage drinking, high-risk drinking and driving after alcohol consumption, according to a UCM report.
Michelle Hendricks, director of University Health Services, said the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools Act requires universities to complete a biannual report to help evaluate the impact of alcohol use on campuses and the effectiveness of efforts to reduce risk. Findings, which depict significant progress in these three areas over a three-year period, were presented during the 2008 fall semester to groups such as the university president’s cabinet and Warrensburg Area Partners in Prevention.
Comprehensive Strategic Plan Addresses Areas of Greatest Risk
Through the Campus Alcohol Board, UCM has developed a comprehensive strategic plan to help focus efforts to address areas of greatest risk and impact on UCM students. The plan is based on an analysis of data measuring student drinking behaviors, attitudes, perceptions and consequences. UCM uses this data to develop and implement evidence-based strategies designed to reduce risk and promote healthy choices.
To measure risk in key areas, Hendricks said the university initially utilized the national Core Alcohol and Other Drug Survey, which compared UCM data with statistics from other U.S colleges and universities. In 2007, UCM began implementing the Missouri College Health Behavior Survey at the request of Missouri Partners in Prevention to gather data on important health-related behaviors that are not included in the Core survey.
Risk Behavior Now Below State Average
One significant area of improvement relates to underage drinking. The Core survey in 2006 indicated that 68.8 percent of UCM’s students under the age of 21 reported consuming alcohol over a 30-day period. In 2008, the number of underage students who drank was 59 percent, 1 percent below the state average.
In 2006, 56.1 percent of students surveyed reported high-risk drinking – five or more drinks in one sitting - over a two-week period. This figure declined dramatically in 2008 to 28.6 percent in 2008, 2.6 percent below the state average. The number of students who reported driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol dropped from 41.4 to 24.9 percent over the three-year period. The 2008 figure is 7 percent below the state average.
Campus and Community Partner to Continue Successes
“We’re encouraged by these significant changes in alcohol-related behavior,” Hendricks said, “but we know there is still a lot to do to ensure the safest possible environment for our students. With help from our campus and community partners, we will continue to seek program resources that contribute to a sustainable comprehensive risk reduction strategy.”
Alcohol Prevention Education Programs Implemented
The strategy to date has included implementation of alcohol prevention education programs, with an emphasis on first-year students, said Amy Kiger, assistant director of University Health Services for Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention. Since 2004, UCM has required first-year students ages 18-24 to take the online alcohol risk reduction curriculum, Alcohol EDU, prior to the beginning of classes each fall. Campus partners use strategies that complement AEDU to increase knowledge and improve decision-making skills in areas such as university housing, Greek Life, athletics, and among other groups.
Additional Strategies Implemented
In addition to alcohol prevention and education programs, the university has made strides toward consistent utilization of evidence-based sanctions and intervention approaches regarding students who violate school alcohol policy, established the Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention office to help address alcohol-related issues, and increased alcohol-free, affordable, late-night entertainment options for students.
Work Continues with Warrensburg Area Partners in Prevention
The university also continues to work with the local community through Warrensburg Area Partners in Prevention, a group of area residents who seek to provide a “healthy and safe environment for individuals, businesses, and our community at large regarding the sale, service and consumption of alcohol.” WAPIP has provided input and support for efforts, including a new city ordinance designed to prevent underage drinking in local establishments that sell alcohol, and stronger compliance measures.
Richard C. Morrell, UCM vice president for student affairs who co-chairs WAPIP, believes the coalition is making a significant difference in the community in terms of addressing alcohol-related issues.
“The positive outcomes are a result of sustained and well-targeted efforts from all factions of the coalition,” Morrell said.