LCB Grants Aim to Reduce Collegiate Substance Abuse

Article excerpt

Three area colleges are furthering alcohol education programs through grants.

Seton Hill University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and California University of Pennsylvania have received funding from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to implement and improve substance abuse initiatives, including social norming.

The board gave almost $730,000 in grants to 73 applicants this year, said Leslie Coombe, acting director of the PLCB's Bureau of Education. Recipients include high schools, colleges and police departments.

"The Social Norms Program is really addressing the misconceptions of what is happening, taking a look at the perceptions of drinking, how much people are drinking and trying to create a norm around the positive behavior," Coombe said.

Social norming is a strategy used to address problem drinking among college students. The theory asserts that people behave the way they perceive their peers do. If they overestimate the amount of harmful behaviors practiced by their peers, the more likely they are to do so as well, creating a false sense of peer pressure.

The Social Norms Program is not limited to alcohol abuse, Coombe said.

"There has been a lot of research that has been done on the social norms theory and approach to substance abuse, and other behaviors," she said. "This approach is not centered around alcohol, but trying to make individuals make healthy decisions."

Seton Hill will use the $11,500 grant to initiate student- athlete substance abuse reduction programs as well as to continue social norming; Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students, or BASICS; and alcohol curriculum infusion programs, said Teresa Bassi-Cook, director of Counseling, Disability and Health Services.

"The new initiatives will be specified to target our student- athletes, and we'll be doing that by working with coaches and trainers," Bassi-Cook said. "Students will receive e-mail messages about healthy behaviors every two weeks if they are student- athletes."

The university will create an outreach program aimed at high school athletes and their coaches and trainers. This program will educate about alcohol use and how it affects athletic performance, she said.

"We've just moved into being granted full membership in our conference, so we're constantly reading the NCAA guidelines. We've done a lot of thinking of a new population on campus. …