Working in Wood County Hospital’s emergency room offered Dr. Kevin Martin one view of BGSU students who arrived on a Friday night with alcohol-related afflictions.
Until recently, though, Martin hadn’t thought a lot about, as he puts it, “the next day—where do they go from there?”
Along with nurses and other emergency-room personnel, Martin—now a physician with BGSU’s Student Health Service (SHS)—gained new perspective from training coordinated in the last year by Barbara Hoffman, health promotion coordinator at the campus Wellness Connection. Helping with the training were Carrie Dowling, Wellness Connection counselor, and Dr. Glenn Egelman, SHS director and physician-in-chief.
With funding from a $300,000 U.S. Department of Education grant, the health care providers—also including health service staff—have been instructed how to use National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines for engaging students with an alcohol problem and referring them to a counselor for help.
Last year, in a pool of 155 applicants, BGSU was among 20 colleges and universities—and the only one in Ohio—to be awarded one of the grants, aimed at preventing high-risk drinking or violent behavior among college students. Dr. Terry Rentner, chair of the journalism department, was principal investigator for the two-year grant, which has also funded the campus introduction of AlcoholEdu, an interactive, online course aimed at educating students about alcohol and its effects on the mind and body.
Martin was president of the Emergency Room Group of doctors for the last two of his four years at Wood County Hospital, where, he said, staff heard “good information” from trainers about such topics as high-risk behaviors associated with drinking and how to screen and assess who’s at risk. “It was very good to put it into that context,” he added, pointing out the number of black eyes and other student injuries that can be traced to alcohol.
Hoffman said research shows that the time a student goes to the emergency room with alcohol poisoning is the time for intervention, with a referral to Dowling, the Wellness Connection counselor.
She also hopes that health service staff will start asking students if complaints of certain ailments they bring to the Health Center are related to drinking.
Hoffman is now following up with the health care providers to see how they’re using the training, as well as tracking referrals to Dowling that were based on it. She would also like to extend it to campus residence halls, working with the residence life and Greek affairs offices to give hall staff the skills to intervene with a student when they are “seeing red flags” of high-risk behavior, such as fighting or drinking and driving.
Noting a new NCAA Choices Grant, a three-year, $30,000 award, Hoffman said, “It’s all following a theme of how we’re trying to work together.” She is co-chair of the Coalition of B!G Choices, a combination of the former University Committee on Alcohol and Other Drug Issues and the Coalition Against Sexual Offenses.
Also a member of the new coalition, Rentner said surveys indicated that AlcoholEdu had some impact on last year’s initial participants, who were targeted because they fall into the highest-risk categories—student-athletes and members of Greek organizations, as well as first-year students.
For instance, after completing the two-part course, BGSU students reported practicing healthier and safer behaviors, such as avoiding drinking to the point of passing out or throwing up, as well as not fighting or drinking and driving. “In other words, students said they know what they need to know and they have the skills they need in order to drink alcohol in a healthier and safer way,” she said.
In addition, more students admitted they worried about a friend who was drinking too much—a 13 percent increase from the response to the same question at the beginning of the course—and 10 percent more students said they had talked to a friend about his or her excessive drinking.
“The data that we collected through AlcoholEdu last year will be used to create programming on this campus,” Rentner said, pointing out that the information doesn’t identify students. “We never see an individual response; we only get the aggregate data.”
She’s been working with BGeXperience program faculty and facilitators, as well as UNIV 100 and Springboard instructors and residence hall advisors, to encourage completion of the course, which isn’t mandatory. Some faculty who teach BGeXperience classes have said they would give extra credit for finishing AlcoholEdu, Renter noted, adding that students have received flyers and e-mail reminders.
The grant has also funded creation and graduate-student monitoring of an e-mail site, firstname.lastname@example.org, where questions about the course are answered.
First-year students have been asked to complete part one of AlcoholEdu by Sept. 15. After a month of other programming that’s part of a comprehensive campus campaign, they will be asked to finish part two by Nov. 3, then score 70 percent or better on an exam. With a score of less than 70 percent comes a request to repeat the course.
Social norms research is the other major component of the campaign, Rentner said. The idea is to change student behaviors and attitudes—including the many misconceptions that students have about alcohol use among their peers—and the campus social environment.
“We are seeing results,” she added, citing a 13-percent drop in the rate of high-risk (binge) drinking on campus from the 1990s to the most recent American College Health Association assessment in 2004. Another ACHA assessment is scheduled for this year.