Mount Union Offers Drug and Alcohol Prevention

October 22, 2012

ALLIANCE, Ohio — National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) will be observed from October 21-27 this year, but the University of Mount Union offers drug and alcohol prevention programming for its students year-round.

Mount Union is one of only a few private schools in northeast Ohio with an in-house drug and alcohol prevention team. The Office of Alcohol, Drug and Wellness Education at the University is led by Kelleen Weber, MaEd LPCC-S LCDCIII, director of alcohol, drug and wellness education. Weber’s staff includes graduate assistant Eric Young, counseling intern Phil Smith and student intern Takisha Morgan. Together, these individuals work with Mount Union faculty, staff and students to develop proactive programming, education and counseling opportunities on campus.

“We are very fortunate to have Kelleen at Mount Union to work with our students,” said Michelle Gaffney, associate dean of students. “While many schools might provide some educational programming with regard to alcohol or drug use and abuse, a person with Kelleen's talents and skills who holds a counseling license specifically designated to assist those with substance abuse issues is really not all that common at either the private or public colleges and universities in Ohio.”

Healthy decision making is a recurring theme in Mount Union’s drug and alcohol prevention programs, and according to surveys conducted by Weber’s office, 95 percent of Mount Union students are aware that there is a prevention plan on campus. The Office of Alcohol, Drug and Wellness Education provides programming in the form of campus-wide “awareness” events such as NCAAW, the Great American Smoke Out and Safe Spring Break and through education and counseling for students concerned about alcohol, drug and other wellness-related issues. The office also works with and advises student organizations such as C.H.O.I.C.E.S. (Choosing Healthy Options in Celebration of Educational Success) and GAMMA (Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol).

“C.H.O.I.C.E.S. offers students opportunities to be better informed about the choices they make each day and avoid the risks that can lead to a lifetime of negative consequences,” said Mount Union junior early childhood education major Rachael Hagey of Mentor, OH, president of C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

In addition, several new strategies and initiatives are being implemented by the office to further enhance alcohol and drug education opportunities. One such initiative, funded through a grant, is BUZZKILL: Serve Under 21 and the Party is Over, a program developed by Drug Free Action Alliance and supported by the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. The University is implementing this social hosting program designed to inform students about their legal responsibilities and the implications they could face if underage students drink at parties hosted by students of legal drinking age.

“Ultimately, it comes down to making good decisions,” Weber said. “We can’t tell someone not to drink but we can make sure that they understand the consequences of bad decisions. As professionals, we can provide helpful learning opportunities. We are being proactive in providing education to prevent the negative consequences.”

Other initiatives being implemented include Healthy Graffiti, a bi-monthly informational posting to educate the campus on trending alcohol, drug and wellness-related issues and 21st birthday cards sent to every student upon reaching the legal drinking age educating them on responsible alcohol use.

Historically, research has confirmed that broad-based, community-level interventions can reduce problems such as youth access to alcohol, underage drinking, heavy drinking among adults and drinking and driving.

“Drug issues are not a campus issue — they’re a community issue,” Weber said.

In an effort to tackle these problems on a community-wide level, the Office of Alcohol, Drug and Wellness Education collaborates with a number of community organizations including Safe Communities of Stark County, the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Stark County and the Anti-Drug Coalition of Stark County.

University officials are especially pleased with the fact that Weber was recently selected to participate in the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (NLAPH) program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Office of State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (OSTLTS).  Weber is one of four members on the Stark County team, one of only 20 teams chosen nationally;  the only team from the state of Ohio. The NLAPH focuses on improving community health by working with multi-sector leadership teams and training the teams through an applied, team-based collaborative leadership development model. The program is being implemented by the Center for Health Leadership and Practice (CHLP), a center of the Public Health Institute (PHI), and provides training and support for a period of one year. 

"Kelleen does a fantastic job of educating our students so that they have information to make good decisions,” said John Frazier, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Mount Union. “Her efforts are very successful and that success is demonstrated by the high level of familiarity that students have with campus policies and related resources that she provides. Additionally, the prevalence of many key alcohol and drug-related benchmarks is typically lower at Mount Union than reported national averages.”


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