State Leaders Convene to Address College Alcohol ProblemsDENVER
Representatives from 39 states gathered in Denver last month for the fourth annual Statewide Initiatives Leadership Institute, a four-day event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention to address how comprehensive regional efforts can curb college student underage and high-risk drinking.
Meeting participants came from state government substance abuse offices and alcohol beverage control agencies, colleges and universities, and state coalitions working to reduce underage drinking.
“This coordinated approach is extremely effective in addressing the issue of underage and high-risk drinking on America’s campuses,” says William DeJong, director of the Higher Education Center. “The partnerships cultivated through statewide initiatives make change possible — uniting college presidents, campus health educators, state and local government officials,” he says.
The Institute serves multiple functions: It offers an opportunity for the Higher Education Center to increase the effectiveness of existing statewide college alcohol and other drug prevention initiatives and to encourage the creation of new initiatives in states that are ready to implement this promising approach.
Through an intense strategic planning process, participants assess the direction of their statewide and regional efforts and gain expertise in evaluating these efforts. Discussions also identify commonalities shared by initiatives, whether it is the struggles of early development, or implementing policy change on a statewide level. The Institute is also an opportunity for established initiatives to serve as mentors to newer efforts, sharing stories about motivating their state to action.
“It is inspiring to hear about the great work going on in other states,” says Steve Schmidt, director of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s Bureau of Alcohol Education. “The Institute was a time to look back and appreciate our accomplishments and to prepare and plan for our future efforts,” he says.
Many of those efforts go beyond the more traditional approaches to high-risk drinking which include education and awareness activities, says Helen Stubbs, the center’s spokeswoman.
Newer strategies involve an environmental approach, which is based on a public health model and looks beyond the student and their individual decisions to the broader environment that affects those decisions. Assessing policy measures, access and availability of alcohol to college students, as well as the marketing and promotion of alcohol on and off campus are key elements of this approach, according to Stubbs. Environmental strategies are very difficult to administer, Stubbs says, and only a handful of states have fully implemented this approach.
Since 1996, the Higher Education Center has worked to promote and sustain statewide and regional initiatives to support college alcohol and other drug prevention efforts. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, with supplemental funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the center is based at the Education Development Center Inc., an internationally known educational research and developmental organization located in Newton, Mass.
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