UAlbany Receives $4.8M Award to Research Substance Use, Problem Gambling Among College Students

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By Bethany Bump

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 25, 2023) — The University at Albany has been awarded $936,414 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment to test and advance best practices that address problem gambling among college students, Congressman Paul Tonko announced.

The grant, which is the first installment of a five-year award totaling more than $4.8 million, will allow UAlbany to develop innovative evidence-based screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment protocols for students struggling with substance use and problem gambling, with a focus on building novel, accessible, and effective interventions  that can assist other colleges and universities in doing the same.

“This new grant continues a tradition of important translational research that helps train School of Education Counseling Psychology graduate students in evidence-based practices,” said Virginia Goatley, dean of UAlbany’s School of Education. “With a goal of screening, providing early intervention, and referral to treatment, this grant extends prior nationally recognized work addressing substance use to include a new focus on gambling.”

Data indicate that problematic gambling among young people is on the rise, with devastating impacts such as financial problems and related concerns that may result in dropping out or temporarily withdrawing from college.

"Across our nation, college students are arriving on campus with increasingly complex mental health and substance use concerns,” said Dolores Cimini, a licensed psychologist and director of the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research at UAlbany, and Jessica Martin, a senior research associate and research fellow at UAlbany’s School of Education. “With recent policy changes, problematic gambling among college students is also on the rise. At the same time, many students, particularly those experiencing the greatest health disparities and experiences of societal marginalization,  are hesitant to access traditional health, mental health, and related supports. This new project will test innovative strategies to identify students most in need of support and provide them with timely and responsive approaches to enhance their health, well-being, and academic success. We are thankful to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for allowing us the opportunity to advance our evidence-based work."

In addition to providing screening, intervention, and referral services, the University will contract with NORC at the University of Chicago to conduct a deeper evaluation of its protocols and research and develop technical assistance materials that can be disseminated to colleges and universities nationwide.

Tonko, who co-chairs the Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators committed to advancing solutions to the country’s addiction crisis, announced the grant earlier this month.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate this critical funding that will allow UAlbany to expand on its vital work training mental health and substance use professionals to implement screening and brief interventions to prevent substance use and gambling problems and get those in need of treatment the help they need,” Tonko said. “This funding will help ensure that young adults who are struggling with these issues have access to the timely and responsive support they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. As a longtime advocate for mental health and addiction treatment, I am proud to see this important work continue at UAlbany and across our Capital Region communities, and I remain committed to supporting efforts to combat the overdose epidemic and solve our nation’s youth mental health crisis.”