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The Daily Tar Heel

Community coalition will address high-risk drinking

The Orange County Health Department, the Orange County ABC Board, UNC and the town of Chapel Hill formed a coalition this year to address potentially dangerous drinking in the community.

The coalition, formally known as the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce the Negative Impacts of High Risk Drinking, is a joint-funded effort to combat high-risk drinking by implementing several recommendations.

Efforts to create the coalition began in 2014, when a group of stakeholders from UNC and the surrounding community met to analyze data, conduct focus groups and research best practices related to alcohol use in college towns. Their efforts culminated in a report that recommends 22 strategies to address high-risk drinking.

Colleen Bridger, director of the Orange County Health Department, said these recommendations, along with community involvement, will make the coalition effective.

“Research has proven that the most successful approach to addressing alcohol misuse in communities is an ecological or public health approach, and that’s what the coalition is doing,” Bridger said.

In line with one recommendation, Elinor Landess was hired as director of the coalition. She will work on the adoption and implementation of the recommendations.

“The whole framework is unique because we’re addressing the environment rather than the individual,” Landess said. “Our work is part of a larger conversation that is part of the community.”

The coalition discovered that 71 percent of UNC students and 47 percent of high school seniors reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. Their findings also noted that the Chapel Hill Police Department responds to 40-50 alcohol overdose calls every semester, most of which involve UNC students.

“We recognized alcohol misuse as a public health issue and supported the approach the coalition was taking to address the issue in a comprehensive manner,” Bridger said.

Evan Lauterborn, a junior at UNC, is skeptical about the coalition’s influence but is hopeful about its future.

“The culture of partying accompanied by heavy alcohol consumption is one that is deeply ingrained in colleges everywhere,” he said. “However, I also believe that having further advocation against high-risk behaviors certainly can’t do more harm than good, and it’s a worthy endeavor even if it deters just a few students.”

The first recommendation from the coalition has already gone into effect — UNC passed a new alcohol policy in June and implemented it on Aug. 1, Landess said.

This year’s fall orientation program was the result of the past efforts of the 2014 research group that created the recommendations and new alcohol policy, she said. Parent orientation was revamped to educate families about alcohol awareness.

Landess said the coalition is a long-term process, and they’re focusing on planning this year.


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