Montana State University

MSU receives $207,000 federal grant to aid in alcohol abuse prevention

June 22, 2005 -- by Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Bozeman -- The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Montana State a two-year, $207,000 grant aimed at preventing high-risk drinking and violent behavior on campus.

The grant will support MSU programs ranging from the popular Midnight Mania to screening programs for high-risk drinkers, according to Jennifer Haubenreiser, director of MSU Health Promotion and the project's director. MSU was one of 20 successful alcohol prevention proposals funded from 155 proposals submitted by colleges and universities across the country.

"This funding will enhance existing efforts while funding new strategies that have been found to be effective at the national level," Haubenreiser said. She said MSU hopes to prevent high-risk drinking by providing students with a baseline education that will help them make better choices as well as promote community health and safety. Funding will support MSU Health Promotion's primary mission to create a healthier, more learning-conducive campus environment, she said.

"We can't stop students from drinking, but we can educate them about responsibility and decision making, as well as provide them with some alcohol-free social alternatives," she said.

Haubenreiser said alcohol is considered the primary public health problem facing not only MSU students, but also college students throughout the country. To combat that, programs such as MSU's look at the broad view, or the "campus ecology," which scrutinizes everything from the students' family dynamics and peer groups to the campus and community social scene.

"We know what to do (to control alcohol abuse on campus and within the community)," Haubenreiser said. "There is a huge body of evidence and research available to direct our work".

She said health educators know that effective programs must be collaborative, involving a variety of campus and community partners. They must be comprehensive, addressing the problem at multiple levels, targeting both the individual and the environment. And, they must involve top administrative support.

Haubenreiser said the grant will fund a four-pronged approach to prevent the harm associated with high risk and illegal drinking, including educating students about healthy drinking as well as working to create an environment that supports healthier behaviors - all important to the university's academic mission.

Beginning this fall, grant-funded projects include the initiation of a screening procedure that will identify students at higher risk for alcohol abuse. Brief interventions will be scheduled with those students.

The grant will also fund an interactive, on-line program that will provide alcohol education for incoming freshmen and other groups on campus.

The Dept. of Education funds will also be used to support popular alcohol-free social activities at MSU, including Midnight Mania during Homecoming weekend and the popular campus karaoke competitions.

"These initiatives will also support existing campus efforts, such as the popular Cat Cab, a joint effort between ASMSU and MSU Health Promotion, which provided rides for more than 5,000 students during the past academic year," Haubenreiser said.

The grant will also fund a staff position to assist with the existing Community Alcohol Coalition, which enlists collaborative community support for the campus' efforts.

"Since the misuse of alcohol affects the local community, taking a broader approach, including public policy and awareness within Bozeman, is an essential element," Haubenreiser said.

Haubenreiser said use of alcohol on the MSU campus has remained fairly constant over the past decade, even though the state has made progress in instituting tougher anti-drinking and driving laws and laws that help limit access to youth. In a recent study, 79 percent of MSU students under the age of 21 reported drinking during the month prior to the survey, Haubenreiser said. MSU is above the national average for heavy episodic drinking, which is defined as drinking five or more drinks during one occasion in the previous two weeks. Forty-six percent of all MSU students reported high risk drinking, compared to 37 percent nationally. The prevalence is slightly higher, or 56 percent, for MSU males.

"What we need to be asking ourselves is once (the students) are here, what messages are we sending them about safe and appropriate behaviors," Haubenreiser said. "How do we help them to develop better values both here and as they enter the world at large? We need to pay close attention to the environment we create and the support we offer to help them succeed."

For more information about the U.S. Department of Education's grants awarded to colleges to reduce high-risk drinking or violent behavior, go to: http://www.edu.org/hec/thisweek/tw050610.html.

Contact: Jenny Haubenreiser (406) 994-2337