by Cindy Clouner
The landscape of higher education has changed in many ways in the past two decades, but one thing that continues is the challenge that colleges and universities face in addressing high-risk drinking. The potential negative consequences of high-risk drinking are endless and can be compounded when mixed with other drugs, including prescription drugs. Recognizing this need, Drug Free Action Alliance created the Ohio College Initiative, the nation’s first statewide initiative to address high-risk drinking, in 1996 and has continued to drive this unique collaboration.
The Ohio College Initiative focuses on decreasing high-risk alcohol use by utilizing environmental prevention strategies, specifically reducing access and availability; reducing marketing and promotion of substances; increasing consistent enforcement of laws and policies; increasing social, recreational, and academic options; and creating a health promoting environment. These strategies echoed the prevention philosophy of the former Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, considered the nation’s primary resource for college and university prevention programming. The Higher Education Center was an important ally in the work of the Ohio College Initiative and provided technical assistance and support. With limited resources, it was imperative that campuses not only relied on each other, but also on the communities in which they were located. In the first year, 19 institutions created campus-community coalitions to address high-risk drinking.
Almost twenty years later and with 53 member institutions, this pioneering initiative is still in existence. Although high-risk drinking prevention will always be at the heart of the Ohio College Initiative, in recent years many institutions have seen an increase in the number of students using marijuana and misusing prescription drugs. The need to address these issues in an effective way is evident and with the rebirth of the Higher Education Center in our backyard, there is no better time than now to refocus the collaborative efforts of Ohio’s college campuses. With a formal partnership between the Higher Education Center and Drug Free Action Alliance, colleges and universities across the state will have access to support, education, technical assistance, and opportunities for networking that will assist them in building strong prevention programs to address not only high-risk drinking, but also the increase in marijuana use and prescription drug misuse among their students. Members of the Ohio College Initiative will be meeting in May to celebrate this new chapter in its history and learn more about the opportunities it brings.
The Ohio College Initiative is supported by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. To learn more about the Ohio College Initiative, please visit DrugFreeActionAlliance.org/ohiocollege.
Cindy Clouner is the Program Manager for the Ohio College Initiative through Drug Free Action Alliance.