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Addressing Drinking and Drug Use in a Safe, Proactive Way

Sad girl in blue light.

National research suggests that about 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and substance abuse is spreading into a wider range of drugs. While alcohol and drug use negatively affects the abuser, it also affects those close to them, including roommates, friends and loved ones.

The week of January 22-27 marks National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®, which is dedicated to educating teens about the risks of drug and alcohol consumption and the effects it has on their health, their success in school, and to their safety while under the influence. Across the SUNY system, we are committed to working with our campus leaders, educators, students, and partners to support best practices, research, and connection to community resources to address the detrimental impact of substance abuse on students and the campus community.

In 2016, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) awarded 2.5 million dollars to 20 SUNY and CUNY Colleges across New York to help prevent and reduce underage drinking and drug use. Fourteen SUNY schools were awarded this funding, which grants up to $125,000 annually over the course of five years, to support initiatives that educate students about the negative effects of drug and alcohol use. One of the fourteen SUNY schools that received this grant was Herkimer County Community College.

A single campus effort to look up to

While there are no quick fixes to this pervasive issue, Herkimer County Community College believes that a mix of strategies, at the individual and institutional levels, with input from a variety of internal and external partners, will be the most effective way to changing attitudes and norms that support student drinking and drug use.

In order to identify and implement effective strategies, Herkimer conducted a needs assessment providing valuable quantitative and qualitative data. Over a 12 year period, Herkimer College has participated in the national Core survey, constructed by the Core Institute of Southern Illinois University, which now has the largest database on alcohol and other drug use at post-secondary educational institutions. The Core survey is administered to Herkimer’s freshmen students every two years, and the data helps identify areas of concern, as well as misperceptions that exist.

According to the 2016 survey results, 70% of students who responded indicated that they would prefer not to have illegal drugs available at parties and that almost half (49%) of students would prefer not to have alcohol available at parties.

OASAS states that the most effective environmental prevention strategy to address drug use involves: enacting or improving policies, enhancing enforcement of policies, and raising awareness of policies and enforcement activities. Herkimer has amended its Alcohol and Other Drug policy to include a formal written warning and parental notification for any student that violates the policy. The new policy is now being enforced, and is communicated to students in a variety of ways.

While screening and intervention has been in practice on a small scale, with OASAS grant funds, Herkimer has been able to expand its screening. All freshmen living on-campus are now given an alcohol and marijuana screening to determine if they have a substance use disorder. All students who violate the policy or who come into the Counseling Center for services are also given the screening. Additionally, the college will provide brief intervention and referral to treatment services to students, as appropriate.

Perhaps the strategy with the largest potential impact is the development of a campus community coalition, a group that advocates for change on the campus and in the community. This coalition is bringing together a diverse group of individuals from a variety of organizations to work together in an effort to reduce alcohol and drug use on campus and in the surrounding community. To work effectively, the coalition is looking to expand its membership to include representatives from schools, business, healthcare,
law enforcement, media, youth serving and substance abuse organizations,
state/local governments, civic, volunteer and religious organizations.

As we continue to work collectively across the SUNY system to ensure our students and campus communities’ well-being and success, we can look up to the significant efforts of Herkimer Community College to address and prevent substance abuse.

Herkimer County Community College coalition for drug and alcohol abuse prevention.

Written by Herkimer County Community College

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  • It’s interesting that the above survey found that 49% of students would rather not have alcohol available parties. That’s a higher number that I would have guessed. Decreasing drug and alcohol use and drugs does take a concerted effort and one that needs to have a multifaceted approach. I do not recall many policies back when I was in college in the 90s, at least policies that were enforced. There was always a strong culture of drinking present. I am a recovering alcoholic. It is my believe that I environment in some ways did contribute to my addiction.

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