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Communities Talk Town Hall to Prevent Underage Drinking

Hosted by: Pace University Counseling Center

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

At Pace University’s New York City campus, speakers talked about how the use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs affect the university and surrounding community to help students understand the effects that substance use has on both the individual using the substance and those around them. Pace’s residential life, campus safety, and sexual assault prevention groups discussed the range of outcomes related to substance use. Speakers from the Children’s Aid Society and the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital shared local statistics and health impacts of substance use, particularly regarding emergencies.

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How did a Communities Talk event help you address those issues?

  • Mobilized coalition members or other stakeholders
  • Educated youth and parents
  • Built community cohesiveness and support for our efforts
  • Created an opportunity to share resources and practices with other community stakeholders
  • Raised awareness of substance abuse and/or underage drinking issues in our community
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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Prevention-related webinars
  • Prevention videos, such as College Drinking: Prevention Perspectives
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
  • We used the Commnities Talk website and the Success Stories it features as a model to help refine a plan for our event and a means by which to make it happen.
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How did your event make an impact on underage drinking in your community?

The Counseling Center engaged students in a discussion of how underage drinking and substance use affects them and others around them, including fellow students who may be classmates, neighbors, or staff in residence halls. The panel also discussed the impact on campus safety and security. Finally, participants were able to explore the effects of underage drinking and substance use on the larger community of New York City and the process of emergency medical intervention related to incidents such as alcohol poisoning and drug overdose.

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What other challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Needed additional resources to conduct activity
  • Lack of interest from the community
  • Inexperience hosting Communities Talk activities
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How did you overcome these challenges?

To gain the students’ interest, the Counseling Center attempted to avoid using messages about the event that would seem punitive or critical of students’ decisions to engage in underage drinking or substance use. Instead, they asked students to consider the information presented when they made decisions so they would be better able to make informed choices. Additionally, a faculty member was instrumental in encouraging student attendance by offering extra credit to students who participated.

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What are your next steps?

  • Host follow-up meetings or activities
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)
  • Our immediate next steps following our event include discussions and plans with on-campus offices who participated in the event, in order to plan future events and integrate the Communities Talk event information into upcoming wellness activities.

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