Boise State University received a $40,000 grant from the Idaho Office of Drug Policy to provide substance abuse prevention resources to the campus community.
The Idaho Office of Drug Policy was established to “develop and implement strategic action plans and collaborative partnerships to reduce drug use and related consequences [in the state of Idaho].” As part of their mission, the office offers block grants to K-12 schools, as well as higher-ed institutions, in an effort to combat substance misuse.
The application for the grant was submitted by Assistant Dean of Students Kate Law and Student Conduct Process Coordinator Jillian Krulac in March 2022. The full amount was approved by the Office of Drug Policy in June.
Law explained that “a majority of [the grant] is going to fund a graduate assistant position to do primary prevention work related to alcohol and drugs.”
This position, titled “substance misuse prevention graduate assistant,” has already been created and filled by Boise State alum Laci McCabe. A primary role of this position, stipulated by the grant, is to put on two programming events each semester that are intended to increase awareness surrounding alcohol and substance misuse.
One of the first events for the fall semester, led by McCabe, is Boise State’s second annual dry tailgate taking place Oct. 8 on the front lawn of Taylor Hall, located in the freshman village on campus.
These events, as well as new resources, are geared toward residential freshmen because of their susceptibility to substance misuse.
“First-year incoming students are where we see a lot of the alcohol consumption happening,” Law said. “They are using it to build social connections and find a sense of belonging at the university.”
Boise State University’s crime logs show that there have been over 100 instances of “alcohol violations” reported on campus so far in 2022. According to university policy, alcohol violations include any use or possession of alcohol that violates Idaho law, as well as any “possession, use and/or distribution of kegs, beer bongs, or any other source of mass consumption of alcohol … when the action occurs on University premises.”
This number is an increase from previous years, with roughly 60 violations reported in 2021 and less than 50 in 2020.
“Boise State has seen a rise in alcohol and drug consumption, [as well as] increased rates of DUI’s, the use of fake IDs and medical transports,” Law said. “We need to continue educating [and] providing alternative options to drinking for students to make sure that they have resources to create a healthy and safe campus environment.”
A 2019 study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that roughly 9% of all college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, which is characterized by uncontrollable drinking.
Additionally, at least 1,500 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries, according to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Higher-ed students are especially susceptible to the dangers of substance abuse because of the “social norming” that occurs regarding underage drinking in college. Substance misuse can quickly start to harm one’s physical, mental and academic well-being.
Law mentioned that roughly 1 in 4 college students will at some point experience academic consequences due to drinking.
Mental health and substance use are heavily intertwined with one another, according to SAMHSA, which is why Boise State is combining efforts between substance misuse prevention and suicide prevention. From Sept. 6-9, McCabe organized Suicide Prevention Week on campus alongside other Boise State organizations.
“[Boise State] has been working to infuse alcohol education into suicide prevention,” Law said. “Good alcohol prevention is suicide prevention.”
Suicide Prevention Week offers events and resources to students to increase awareness regarding the importance of mental health, as well as alcohol and substance misuse prevention.
The substance misuse grant is part of a longer-term goal of establishing a substance misuse task force called Project Healthy Campus, according to Law. This board is an “aspirational space” that the university hopes to develop in the next several years — it will be a community of partners meant to unify efforts across campus to increase student success and well-being.