Grant boosts programming to curb underage drinking

11/4/2008 - By: Guia Del Prado

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Student Services, Join Together Northern Nevada (JTNN) and University Police Services collaborated on a federal grant addressing underage drinking in the University population. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency awarded a three-year, $900,000 federal grant for an initiative called the Developing Initiatives with Community Coalitions, Campuses, and Enforcement (DICCCE). The grant will focus on transforming attitudes about alcohol and underage drinking through various activities, including educational programs on alcohol, late-night events for underage students, and additional resources for Police Services.

Carol Millie, coordinator of student conduct and Student Services community liaison, Kevin Quint, JTNN executive director, and Debbie Penrod of University Police Services, spearheaded a collaboration that resulted in the grant. According to Quint, the University and JTNN have partnered together in addressing the underage drinking issue for some years.

“We’ve been working collaboratively with UNR for the last three years especially on different underage drinking prevention efforts,” Quint said. “This [grant] will help us to be more specific in implementing strategies and really focusing on campus-based interventions that address underage drinking.”

The grant, as a part of the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Discretionary Program: University/College Initiative, became available in summer 2008. Millie and Quint then led an effort among several organizations in the community and within the University to collaborate in acquiring the grant. Millie said they received letters of support from Wolf Pack Athletics, the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, and the Truckee Meadows Community College Student Services.

“There are so many people we have to say thank you to, who said ‘yes, we’re on board and we’re partnering,’ ” Millie said.

The previous partnership in conducting research on underage drinking between JTNN and the University Student Services yielded many issues Quint and Millie believe should be addressed. The grant and the grant’s programs, funded in October 2008 and going into effect in January 2009, will do just that.

“From the data, we learned habits and behaviors as to what is happening in Washoe County and specifically at the college student population identifying areas of concern and tried to match those with environmental management activities and strategies,” Millie said.

One of the primary problems identified in their research of underage drinking was a lack of resources to enforce laws like the Social Host Ordinance and compliance laws in bars and clubs on detecting fake IDs and keeping minors out of bars. The Social Host Ordinance was passed in 2007 to crack down on loud and disruptive house parties where minors could easily acquire alcohol.

In response to this problem, the grant will fund an activity known as directive patrols, which will increase Police Services’ ability to patrol at specific times known for increased drinking throughout the school year around campus.

The grant will also allow JTNN and the University to enact a program called the Real Bar Campaign, which will be launched on Wednesday, Nov. 12. The Real Bar Campaign is aimed at creating partnerships of community organizers and business owners to develop programs assisting their employees on keeping minors out of bars and liquor stores.

“We are striving to work with various bar owners by bringing them together on a regular basis and helping them train their staff to … identify a fake ID and stop those from coming into the establishments,” Millie said.

Another problem stemmed from the lack of late-night events for underage students to participate in an optional activity to drinking.

“We also learned from our data collected from underage students that a perceived lack of something to do was why they drank,” Millie said. “They all say we don’t have something to do late at night and this grant will give us resources to increase late night programming at the University.”

Millie and Quint also found discrepancies in the judiciary system following arrest or citations. Many minors cited or arrested felt they were mandated to attend programs that didn’t match their specific conditions.

“If a student does get in trouble, the consequences are really different depending on which judge and which court system they are sent to,” Millie said. “Students have reported that the primary educational tool they have is the Victim Impact Channel, which is more about drinking and driving than underage drinking. It’s a great educational resource but a lot of these 18 to 20 year olds are saying it doesn’t match with me because I wasn’t drinking and driving.”

The grant will provide resources to address this issue in allowing JTNN, the University and local judiciary systems to collaborate in developing crime-specific disciplinary programs for underage violators. Millie said they are currently working with the Judiciary and other University organizations to create an educational program called the Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention.

The program would be for University students who are cited or arrested for underage drinking.
The different goals of the grant are part of a larger plan to change the social attitudes that underage drinking is unavoidable for college students, Millie and Quint said.

“I think there are attitudes of ‘Oh, college kids will drink wink wink,’ ” Quint said. “We would like it to be that it’s an accepted societal value that underage people shouldn’t

Prevention of underage drinking also prevents health and brain development problems that can come as a result of alcohol. Since the brain doesn’t complete development until the age of 24, Millie says, drinking before then can cause long term effects on the brain.

“It’s really a health issue,” Millie said. “And that’s really where the magic numbers of 21 or so are coming from. Just physically, how we develop as human beings.”

Quint and Millie believe that underage drinking are important to the community as a public safety issue. Minors who make take risks in drinking and driving or engaging in activities they normally would not when sober.

“It’s a public safety issue as far as getting in a car and driving or engaging in risky behavior,” Quint said.

The state has been dedicated to eradicating drinking and driving fatalities and injuries. The DICCCE grant, which addresses underage drinking, contributes to that state-wide commitment by preventing minors from drinking in the first place, Millie said.

“We realized that [the grant] can help us get to that ultimate issue for our state, because we’ve already identified the underage drinking contributes to that [drinking and driving],” Millie said.
Quint highlighted that idea of creating a safe environment within the community as a larger, hoped for result of the DICCCE grant.

“It’s a causative environmental strategy,” Quint said. “It has to do with the fact that we’re not teaching a person not to drink, we’re appealing to a larger system in which these people live to help them not abuse alcohol.”


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