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Let's Talk Community Town Hall

Hosted by: Dr. Deborah Wilson

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

The Texas Southern University Counseling Association, alongside other campus organizations and community groups, held a town hall activity to discuss the risks of underage drinking and substance misuse and overall mental health among students.

Representatives from the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) shared a presentation on the impact of underage drinking from a public safety perspective, and through real-life experience, with one person sharing a personal family tragedy. We used flyers, handouts, placards, banners, and email marketing to advertise and bring attention to the event.

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

Harris County, Texas, has one of the highest underage drinking rates in Texas. More than 450 underage drinking arrests occurred during 2021. There is also a growing number of CBD and marijuana incidences in Harris County. According to the Harris County Sheriff’s post on Twitter, Harris County has a “serious issue with underage drinking”; in 2019, we saw 14,588 arrests for driving while intoxicated, with 402 being from underage persons (average age 19, with a blood alcohol concentration of nearly the legal limit at 0.137). The availability of alcohol and adults purchasing alcohol for minors are also big issues in Texas.  

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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
  • Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
  • Awareness and enforcement of social host laws) to support prevention of underage drinking
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

We were excited to have the opportunity to partner with so many local and on-campus organizations to implement our event. We partnered with Chi Sigma Iota – Tau Sigma Upsilon (CSI) chapter, a student-led program, which helped us with planning and implementing the event. They also invited TSU’s Graduate Counseling Program, and the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to attend to the event to further reinforce their underage drinking prevention messages. We wanted this host this event to let students know that there is always someone to talk to, no matter what issue or situation they may be facing.

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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Prevention videos, such as College Drinking: Prevention Perspectives
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk planning guides
  • Communities Talk toolkits
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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic did affect the planning of our event, but only minimally. Several organizations we contacted were already booked (because of the increase in abuse during the pandemic) or had streamlined availability, so the event had to be rescheduled twice. However, when it was finally done, it was successful.

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

  • Unforeseen difficulties when planning our activity
  • Change in organizational structure or staff
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How did you overcome these challenges?

We persevered and came together with university administrators to ensure that the event was successful. The presenters were gracious and motivated the students with their presentations. As we closed out the program, a young man, who revealed that his family was affected by an underage drinking accident, stood up and began to clap. His fellow students also stood in solidarity and clapped alongside him. Then the whole room stood and began to clap. This was the highlight of the program. More than 40 underage students and several administrators were present at the event.

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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)

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