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Virtual Townhall on Roger Williams University's Medical Amnesty Policy

Hosted by: East Bay Regional Coalition

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

For this Communities Talk activity, we recruited and trained an intern from Roger Williams University to present the research we developed on the university’s amnesty policy related to underage drinking and binge drinking. The presentation was intended to reach various university groups who focus on health and prevention, such as the Health and Wellness Educators (HAWEs). The presentation was held over Zoom and advertised through paid social media advertisements, campus flyers, and the campus email system. After the presentation, a recording was made available on YouTube.

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How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?

Underage drinking is a noted issue in the Bristol, Rhode Island, community. Roger Williams University had 249 alcohol violations just between fall 2016 and spring 2017. Per the National College Health Assessment, there was a binge-drinking rate of 49.8 percent and a problem-drinking rate (seven or more drinks per sitting) of 24.8 percent during 2014. In 2016, the Association of College and University Housing Officers International and Educational Benchmarking, Inc. found that 5 percent of students rated fellow residents’ alcohol use as having extremely negative effects on their quality of life. When campus health educators were asked about the student body’s awareness of the medical amnesty policy, they reported that they believed most students would benefit from increased awareness about the policy.

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Create new resources/materials (e.g., publications, handouts, factsheets, videos, graphics) to support prevention of underage drinking and misuse of other substances
  • Raise awareness of the medical amnesty policy among students.
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What challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Lack of interest from the community
  • Lack of promotion/awareness of our activity or organization
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How did you overcome these challenges?

During our planning stages, we explored the idea of holding the event for high schoolers who were looking to attend college, and we considered including more general alcohol education. Unfortunately, schools disallowed outside guests. So, we shifted our focus to the university, where our contacts were more interested in hosting a virtual event. We also had difficulty recruiting viewers. We recorded the event and gave the HAWEs the opportunity to show the event to future students, and we also placed the event online for easier viewing.

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What are your next steps?

  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Support new prevention policies, legislation, or social ordinances
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)
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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
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov What’s New email newsletter
  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk planning guides
  • Communities Talk toolkits
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
  • Not applicable
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

To plan the event, we recruited a student completing her capstone project, and she consulted with local substance abuse prevention coalitions during the event’s planning stages. These coalitions included the Bristol Prevention Coalition, East Providence Prevention Coalition, and Warren Prevention Coalition. After the event was designed, the student was coached on recruiting the HAWEs and student housing representatives. Our target audience was students at Roger Williams University. The Communities Talk event was promoted through the university’s email system, flyers placed around campus, and social media ads targeting local college students.

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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Yes, COVID-19 did affect the planning and execution of our activities. We originally planned to hold the event in person. However, a new spike in infections began to occur, which caused us to pivot to a virtual event.

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