Oswego emphasizing Basics in combatting substance abuse

In addressing student abuse of alcohol and other drugs, SUNY Oswego is emphasizing the Basics.

Oswego is one of many colleges adopting Basics—short for Brief Alcohol Screening and Inventory for College Students—because it’s seen as a more up-to-date and best-practices intervention model, said Thad Mantaro, alcohol and other drug prevention coordinator in the college’s Lifestyles Center.

“The optimal goal is to reduce risk and harms associated with substance abuse,” Mantaro said. “Studies show that when students go through this program, they lessen their risks, they lower their use and they reduce the harms associated with alcohol abuse.”

Basics replaces the college’s previous intervention programs, CheckPoint and New Path, required when students had an alcohol or other drug violation. CheckPoint, required after the first violation, involved five 90-minute group sessions in one week. A second violation would put the student into New Path individual sessions.

“We had very strong, very well-thought-out programs before, but it’s always changing in the field,” Mantaro explained. “Many colleges are moving to Basics,” he said, “because it’s been discovered that short interventions are as successful as longer interventions.”

Basics is an individual, interactive program, Mantaro said. A first 45-to-60-minute session with a counselor provides initial program information and a link to a Web site with a questionnaire.

Students keep a use inventory for two weeks, and see a feedback profile offering personalized information and comparing their use to other students, which they go over one-on-one with a counselor at a second session that runs 45 minutes to an hour. Students also have a brief follow-up meeting with a short test six weeks later.

Having students involved in evaluation and inventory of their actions makes them more involved in the treatment, and the information allows counselors to offer customized feedback as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach, Mantaro noted.

“Basics relies mainly upon motivational interviewing, a technique that helps someone move from one stage of behaviors to another with less risk and lower harms,” he added.

Students have responded better to this approach because they “perceive it as less punitive and more tailored to their schedule,” Mantaro said, stressing it emphasizes students analyzing their behavior in a judgment-free environment. “They are more likely to respond better when they are less defensive or defended.”

Basics also acknowledges that alcohol use in college can be part of a developmental process and that more successful treatment programs stress making healthy choices and considering consequences more than emphasizing just abstinence, Mantaro said.

Students with a second violation would attend an Alcohol and Other Drugs Education Group meeting once a week for four weeks, which builds upon information from the Basics program.

Oswego started the program with the spring semester and will collect data to evaluate and track its overall progress, Mantaro said, though its success elsewhere has been encouraging.

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CONTACT: Thad Mantaro, 312-5649

(Posted: Feb 20, 2008)