In conjunction with the University’s efforts to curb student alcohol abuse, the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) and the Office of Residential Life have teamed up to introduce the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) program.
In its initial implementation, the only students who will go through the program will be students who have been caught violating the University’s alcohol policies or who have been in dangerous situations after consuming alcohol.
“BASICS is a prevention program for students who are at risk for or have experienced negative consequences as a result of drinking (e.g., injuries, blackouts, hospitalizations, fights/disruptions, poor academic performance [or] legal problems),” Allison Avolio, director of Residential Life, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The BASICS program was created in 1992 by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a subset of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the NREPP’s website, more than 20,000 individuals have gone through BASICS since its implementation in 1992.
“[BASICS] is one of the most effective alcohol education interventions with college students,” Barbara Gwinn Schubert, associate director of CHEW, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The BASICS program is administered in two hour-long sessions. In the first session, the administrator talks to the student about their current alcohol consumption habits and drinking history. Before the second session, the student takes an online self-assessment survey, which gives the administrator material to create customized feedback in the second session.
“Goals are then selected by the student and are aimed at reducing risky behaviors and potential harmful consequences,” Schubert wrote. “If the screening indicates a higher level of risk or if the student believes they cannot make adjustments on their own, then that student will be referred to a resource that can more thoroughly address their specific needs.”
Avolio wrote that she believes BASICS will be an effective way to educate students who have been engaged in risky alcohol consumption because it is customized for each individual student.
“BASICS is truly a harm reduction approach with frameworks in motivational interviewing, and CHEW is trained to work with referred students in an empathetic and non-judgmental manner,” Avolio wrote.
Although some of the students who will be referred to CHEW for the BASICS program will be students who have been caught violating University policies, Schubert said that the program itself is not meant to be a punishment.
“CHEW is receiving referrals from Residential Life for individuals who have been sanctioned for an alcohol violation and who have been identified as benefiting from BASICS,” Schubert wrote. “Even though students are sanctioned to go through BASICS, it is educational in nature and is not meant to be a means of discipline.”
Referrals to the BASICS program will not replace any existing Residential Life protocol for dealing with students who have violated alcohol-related policies. Avolio said she sees the program as supplemental to existing educational programs.
“BASICS hones in on healthy decision making as it relates to substance use and abuse, but Residential Life and CHEW are both still committed to continuing and enhancing our traditional alcohol education programming,” Avolio wrote. “The month of October, for instance, will be full of events and bulletin boards in the halls that provide an educational component and/or alternative social opportunities for our students.”
Schubert emphasized that CHEW hosts a wide variety of alcohol education programs, all of which include information on safe drinking habits.
“In all of our programs and activities, we educate students on what constitutes a standard sized drink, how to estimate your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), warning signs of alcohol poisoning, how to respond to someone who is passed out and strategies to stay in the Blue Zone — .04 BAC or below,” Schubert wrote.
“We also emphasize harm reduction strategies such as keeping track of the number of drinks you are consuming, eating before, during and after drinking, staying with the same group of friends and alternating drinks with non-alcoholic beverages.”
Schubert said that education on alcohol abuse is part of CHEW’s Bystander Intervention Training (BIT), an interactive program to teach students about rape and gender-based violence and to encourage intervention in suspicious situations.
“CHEW is committed to creating a healthier, happier and safer campus environment, so we are always looking for effective strategies such as BIT and BASICS to accomplish that,” Schubert wrote.
Schubert is a member of the new Alcohol Strategy Group, which will be led by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger, along with the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, which is comprised of representatives from colleges and universities throughout the state.
Although Shollenberger’s Alcohol Strategy Group does not include a representative from Residential Life, Avolio said that the administration’s goals are in tandem with her office’s objectives regarding student alcohol abuse.
“Since one of [Vice Provost] Shollenberger’s charges is to address binge drinking and alcohol abuse on our campus, we are supporting that by adjusting our efforts and providing programs and resources for students,” Avolio wrote. “BASICS referrals and continued educational programming are parts of that framework, and while Residential Life is not directly serving in the strategy group, we are working towards the same goals and are being held accountable for them.”