U.S. Department of Education Funds UAlbany Alcohol Intervention Program
Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980
ALBANY, N.Y. (August 31, 2005) -- Alcohol is a persistent and costly problem that affects colleges, campus communities and students nationwide. The University at Albany has received a $295,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to prevent high-risk drinking and violent behavior among college students. Titled Project First STEPS, the initiative will identify high-risk drinkers among first-year students through an online screening process conducted within the students' first month at UAlbany then follows a five-stage process to prevent high-risk behaviors. The project director and principal investigator is M. Dolores Cimini, psychologist and director of UAlbany's award-winning Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program. Project service coordinators and co-principal investigators include: Matthew Martens, assistant professor, department of counseling Psychology; Christine A. Bouchard, associate vice president for student affairs and Estela M. Rivero, director, University Counseling Center, University at Albany.
"We're grateful to have funding from the U.S. Department of Education to help make these interventions possible," said UAlbany President Kermit L. Hall. "The psychologists of the University Counseling Center offer exemplary resources and model intervention programs that provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to facilitate change and succeed on campus and in life. This grant comes at a particularly critical time for the University as it addresses one of the most persistent issues in higher education, alcohol abuse. We are fortunate to have a team that could not only win the grant but now deliver in a way that will benefit the University, both its students and its reputation."
The objectives of Project First STEPS are consistent with the NIAAA Task Force on College Drinking (2002) recommendations which are to reduce student alcohol use and reduce "harms" or negative consequences that result from excessive [high-risk] use. The study will measure the effects of the interventions on the individual student and across time upon campus crime rates, student referrals to the judicial system for alcohol policy violations and alcohol-related health concerns, emergencies and accidents.
"We are thrilled to have this prestigious grant," said Rivero, who has a critical leadership role in the University's alcohol and other drug prevention initiatives. "This provides us the opportunity to intervene early to prevent alcohol use and related negative consequences in our first-year students. Our state-of-the-art grant project interventions will offer our new students a ‘head start' to succeed, both academically and personally at UAlbany."
Project First STEPS will also bolster the University's "social norms" campaign—to correct the nationwide misperception of underage and high-risk drinking on campus. NIAAA Task Force Report on College Drinking (April, 2002) gave credence to the value of implementing social norms programs on campus with the Panel on Prevention and Treatment noting that "several institutions that persistently communicated accurate norms have experienced reductions of up to 20 percent in high-risk drinking over a relatively short period of time."
In September, 2004, NIAAA awarded UAlbany $890,000 to research interventions that prevent or reduce alcohol-related problems among college students. The NIAAA peer-facilitated project initiative is being coordinated through the University Counseling Center's Middle Earth program, a winner of a U. S. Department of Education Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Model Program Grant in 2000 and the recipient of a 2001 Exemplary Substance Abuse Prevention Program Award by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services. Project First STEPS services to students will be conducted by University Counseling Center psychologists who have specialized training in brief alcohol screening and intervention.
The University at Albany is a leader
in campus alcohol and drug abuse prevention
initiatives with a 15-year history of commitment to fostering campus-community
coalitions, providing educational programs and enforcing University alcohol
and drug policies. The University Counseling
Center and the Committee on University
and Community Relations work together to
advance "reality over perception"— the
core of social norms intervention—and succeeded in an agreement with
tavern owners to eliminate drink specials which may have promoted high-risk