By Jeff Murphy, November 20, 2015
WARRENSBURG, MO – One of only four programs in the nation to be recognized, Community
Culture of Responsible Choices, a coalition which includes representation from the
University of Central Missouri, Whiteman Air Force Base, and Johnson County communities,
has received a 2015 National Exemplary Award for Innovative Substance Abuse Prevention
Programs, Practices, and Policies.
Representatives of UCM and Whiteman AFB who are part of CCoRC traveled to Seattle, Wash., to receive the award Nov. 18 from the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc. and the National Prevention Network. The award ceremony took place at the end of the plenary session of the annual NPN Conference.
The award specifically recognizes an initiative that was implemented by CCoRC to reduce underage and high-risk drinking among Air Force personnel ages 18-26 stationed at Whiteman AFB. The program was launched in 2009 when the Missouri Department of Public Safety awarded a subcontract to UCM to implement a Department of Justice Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Demonstration Grant. The three-year grant, which was renewed for three separate years with no cost extensions, provided $750,000 to implement the CCoRC program. Another $200,000 went to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, the agency that served as the state coordinator for the project.
“This was an excellent opportunity to build our strong partnership with Whiteman Air Force Base, while also continuing to work with surrounding communities to address alcohol-related issues, which are a national health concern,” said UCM President Charles Ambrose. “Problems associated with underage and high-risk drinking affect many different groups of society, so it was important that so many people came together locally and at the state level to contribute to this project. It has certainly laid the groundwork for what we hope will result in many future cooperative projects, including opportunities such as Green Dot bystander intervention training with Whiteman and other partners to address issues such as sexual assault and relationship violence.”
Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets IV, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, also noted, “We truly value the strong partnership that has developed between Team Whiteman and the University of Central Missouri as we seek to address the shared challenges our Airmen and students face. The CCoRC is integral to fostering good decision making and creating a healthy culture in our community."
CCoRC is a coalition that consists of about 30 different agencies, including police and sheriff’s department personnel. It grew out of what was originally known as Warrensburg Area Partners in Prevention, a local campus-community partnership that was chaired by UCM, and had a mission to promote the safe and legal sale, service, and consumption of alcohol in the Warrensburg community. From WAPIP’s inception in 2006, its primary target audience was UCM students, although Whiteman AFB was an active participant in the group because underage airmen often live and socialize in Warrensburg. As WAPIP successfully implemented the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation’s (PIRE) Community Trials Intervention program, which contributed to positive results regarding underage alcohol use among college students, the local military base welcomed the opportunity to implement a modified version of the initiative with airmen as the target audience.
“We saw significant decreases in underage drinking and high-risk drinking and the Missouri Department of Public Safety knew about it,” said Amy Kiger, director of Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention, who helped co-write the grant. “When the request for proposals came out from the Department of Justice, a state agency needed to apply, so the Department of Public Safety contacted us to see if we could write the grant proposal with them.”
This made the EUDL grant possible. It became the impetus for a new coalition that carried on WAPIP’s work, but more specifically aimed at the military. While implementing the Community Trials Program at Whiteman AFB, the CCoRC was built into a strong, multi-agency partnership which was chaired by the commander of the 509th Bomb Wing and the UCM President. Implementation of this initiative included enforcement operations, alcohol-free activities, and an innovative, comprehensive education campaign at Whiteman AFB that combined for several positive outcomes. Among them was a 99 percent reduction in open container violations among airmen under age 21 – from 212 pre-intervention to only one post-intervention, and a 93 percent reduction in underage possession – from 617 pre- to 40 post-intervention.
Kiger said the grant made it possible to hire Jeff Huffman, an 11-year veteran of the Air Force, to serve as local project coordinator, responsible for bringing resources and personnel from UCM, the base and community together to create a cooperative culture vital to achieving program objectives. Such efforts included the establishment of the “Wing It” program to give airmen alcohol-free options for recreation and entertainment activities. A total of 5,111 airmen participated in activities such as late-night movies, sporting events, and much more. Some events took place at UCM.
Enforcement activities involved law enforcement personnel in efforts such as training with regard to appropriate ways to do underage compliance checks, and local liquor license holders learned about best practices, including ways to check for false IDs. Covert underage buyer compliance checks also took place as part of the initiative.
Kiger said one of the innovative aspects of the program was that from the beginning Huffman conceptualized higher education as the ultimate alcohol-free activity. Therefore, the university made access to campus resources for Whiteman personnel a priority. While the initiative was in progress, UCM also established the “Whiteman Advantage,” which included a military tuition package which waives several mandatory student fees for military partners, and created “Wing Access,” which allows current active duty and veteran students priority enrollment in classes. UCM also created the Command Pass to make it possible for active duty military and veterans to attend home sporting events on campus, and established a one-stop Military and Veterans Success Center to provide services that assist active duty military, veterans, and their spouses with their education at UCM.