Safer California Universities Grant Lowers Intoxication Rates

Safer California Universities Grant Lowers Intoxication Rates

June 02, 2013

More than a dozen state universities in California have decreased rates of alcohol-related incidents by partnering student health staff with other groups such as top administrators, university housing, campus and city police, local establishments, athletics departments, judicial affairs, and others who might be able to help.

At California State University at Chico, two students suffered alcohol-related deaths last fall. But Chico State and 13 other universities are involved in a project funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism called Safer California Universities. With a 10-year grant received in 2003 worth up to $45,000 to study student alcohol use, the Safer California Universities grant project is trying to identify where and how students get into trouble with alcohol, and testing effective environmental prevention strategies on campuses. After five years, the study found that, at each campus, 900 fewer students reported drinking to intoxication at off-campus parties and 600 fewer getting drunk at bars or restaurants during the fall semester.

That campaign involves websites, door hangers, newspaper ads, friendly dorm walk-throughs from university presidents and police, and various forms of literature. The goal is to ensure students know how much is too much, what happens when they get caught, and where and how to find help when they need it. The campaign involves collaboration with top-level administrators, university housing, campus and city police, local establishments, athletics departments, judicial affairs, and others who might be able to help. The campuses that tightened enforcement saw the greatest reductions in student intoxication. "What really holds this whole process together is the glue of the student visibility campaign," said Richard P. McGaffigan, program director for the Prevention Research Center. If students know that more police are out conducting DUI checkpoints and testing bars' ID checks, they might be more aware of the consequences of drinking. "We never really wanted to arrest a lot of students, but we wanted to promote safety through accountability."

The report was presented at the annual meeting of the American College Health Association, where representatives from Chico State and other universities part of the grant project shared their results. They said that a lack of such funds should not stop people from doing what they can to reduce alcohol use. Speakers recommended starting a campaign early in the academic year. "If you're on college campuses, we see that as usually when the tone is set around drinking," McGaffigan said. "So if we could have a strong intervention during that time, maybe we could change the drinking throughout the year."

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