Troubling and, in many cases, dire consequences of alcohol and other drug use among students at Virginia’s colleges and universities compelled the commonwealth’s Commission on Youth to team up with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) to find more effective ways to address this persistent and growing public health and safety problem.
The Virginia Higher Education Substance Use Advisory Committee (VHESUAC) is a newly formed group of representatives from public and private institutions of higher education, student leaders, state agencies and statewide partners in substance misuse prevention who are ready to collaborate to reduce college substance misuse and advocate for policies and practices that are science-based.
“Every day Virginia’s college students, their families and friends, and the community-at-large face negative consequences related to substance misuse, including academic problems, unintentional injuries, assault, dependency and unfortunately sometimes even death,” said Virginia ABC Education and Prevention Manager Katie Crumble. “Whether the substance is alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs, the toll of misuse on the intellectual and social lives of students is enormous. Our hope is that with partnerships and support at the local and state levels, colleges and universities will gain an increased capacity to address the problem of substance misuse.”
VHESUAC consists of a workgroup and executive council, the latter of which met for the first time this month at Virginia ABC’s headquarters in Richmond. The committee’s principal task is to develop and update a statewide strategic plan for substance use education, prevention, and intervention at Virginia’s public and private institutions of higher education. The strategic plan will accomplish a number of goals including:
- Identifying best practices, such as student-led peer-to-peer education and college or other institution of higher education recovery programs;
- Providing for the collection of statewide data from all institutions of higher education on student alcohol and substance use;
- Identifying ways to assist institutions of higher education in developing individual strategic plans by providing networking and training resources and materials;
- Developing and maintaining individual strategic plan reporting guidelines for use by institutions of higher education.
Virginia ABC, which is committed to reducing underage and high-risk drinking on campuses and in communities, began collecting needs assessments from colleges and universities four years ago. At the same time, the authority’s Education and Prevention Section began an ongoing effort to compile campus policies and programs on alcohol and other drugs. The authority has worked with Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Department of Education, State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and representatives from four- year institutions of higher education to create the committee with the Commission on Youth. More information is available at https://www.abc.virginia.gov/education/programs/vhesuac.