The UT System Board of Regents approved $2.4 million at a meeting Thursday to support the expansion of alcohol prevention, education and recovery programs at all UT System schools.
The funds will be used over the next three years for campus recovery centers and to provide services such as a web-based alcohol education program and early intervention screening programs, according to a System press release.
UT Austin leads the UT System schools in alcohol education, according to Chris Brownson, UT associate vice president for student affairs and director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center. The system-wide implementation of the programs began in 2012 after the Board of Regents approved an initial $1 million.
“The UT System is the only system of higher education in the nation to make this level of commitment to students by funding comprehensive programs at each academic campus,” Brownson said in the statement.
Regent Vice Chairman Steve Hicks said in the statement that student safety includes assuring students they have a place to go for problems with alcohol.
“This initiative is an investment in student success, student health and student safety,” Hicks said. “We want to prevent students from getting into trouble in the first place, but if they do get into trouble, we want to make sure they have a place to go that will provide the resources to get them back on track.”
All UT System institutions do already have resources dedicated to alcohol recovery and prevention, according to the statement.
“Though recovery centers are in various stages of development at UT academic institutions, nearly all of the campuses have a physical location, weekly recovery support group meetings, social media and/or Internet presence and a dedicated staff member to oversee the center,” the statement said.
Susan Hochman, assistant director for public information and health promotion of University Health Services, said the funding that will go toward alcohol abuse prevention will support two different initiatives, online alcohol education and personal assessments of alcohol-related behaviors. All incoming UT students are required to take a web-based alcohol education course.
“This is system-wide, so all system schools will be able to implement [online alcohol education] in some form or another, which some system schools have,” Hochman said.
The funding will also support a program called Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS), which is a program that provides a comfortable environment for students to assess their own drinking behaviors through dialogue with professionals and online testing.
“It’s wonderful to have the funding that supports prevention, and this is a great way for us to reach all of our students in a way that we know to be effective,” Hochman said.
Cary Tucker, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said previous funds have gone toward expanding staff to better serve students, in addition to outreach efforts.
“I would say that primarily the funds have been used to hire staff, and, generally, that’s been one person at each of the campuses who can actually devote the time, energy and focus to leading the effort,” Tucker said.
Tucker said the recovery efforts provide a sense of community for those recovering from alcohol abuse.
“It really is so heartening that it’s just having a place on campus where people in recovery can feel that they belong, that they have community and they have support,” Tucker said.