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UF Hosts Coalition To Combat Student Alcohol Abuse

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Getting into your favorite bar on a fake ID might get harder next year.

University of Florida Community Alcohol Coalition met last week to discuss ways to curb underage and excessive drinking in and around the UF and Santa Fe campuses.  The coalition is comprised of representatives from the city of Gainesville, Alachua County and UF.

The success of the Gainesville community depends on the strength of the partnerships developed among the community entities, including the alcohol-serving establishments, Gainesville mayor Ed Braddy said.

Braddy said he believes the city needs to find better ways to inform students about alcohol safety. He also said he wants to reduce alcohol-related accidents and the use of fake IDs and build stronger partnerships with UF and Santa Fe College for intervention and recovery.

On-campus alcohol-related transports to the hospital almost doubled this fall from the previous year.  Forty-nine people were taken to the hospital for alcohol during the 2015 fall semester; Twenty-seven went in fall 2014, according to data presented by Maureen Miller, director of UF GatorWell Health Promotion Services. Spring 2015 data was about the same compared with the previous spring semester and summer 2015 showed a slight increase.

Chris Loschiavo, director of UF Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, said from what they’ve seen over recent years and from speaking with students, there has been more drinking at bars than at house parties. This is due to a combination of bars not checking IDs and well-made fake ones, he said.

The Alachua County Health Promotion and Wellness Coalition is partnering with bars to address the issue of fake IDs with electronic ID scanners that test for validity, said Dotti Baker, executive director.

Increased calls for hospital transports can be a result of several different factors, such as an increase of students in residence halls, more freshmen (about 7,000 compared to last year’s about 6,400) and effectively spreading the message of “U Matter, We Care,” said Jen Day Shaw, associate vice president and dean of students at UF.

However, Guy Nicolette, associate program director at UF Student Health Care Center, said the data on alcohol-related transports reminded him of the increased number of concussions in sports medicine.

“It strikes me as these numbers might reflect not a true increase in the activity, but an increase in what comes to us,” he said.

Campus Clarity, an online course that students will be required to complete before registering for classes, will give information on making healthy decisions and promoting a positive, safe culture, according to the UF Dean of Students Office website. 

Dave Kratzer, vice president for UF Student Affairs, said he believes more information needs to be provided about the negative effects of mixing alcohol with stimulants and energy drinks. These include energy crashes and delaying the effects of alcohol.

The Gainesville Police Department will continue its efforts with its DUI checkpoints, as well as portable breathalyzer tests. This effort will make students aware of their alcohol level in relation to how they feel.

In the beginning of December, the UF Police Department worked with student government to release GatorSafe, a smartphone application with alcohol safety tools and resources for emergencies and improving the expected alcohol recovery timeline. It includes contact information for emergencies, alcohol poisoning/safety information and a safety tool box with features like a siren and flashlight.

Kratzer said the school has implemented a medical amnesty policy to waive student disciplinary action under certain conditions and encourages students to call for medical help during alcohol or other health emergencies. Despite the community’s successes, however, he said he knows there’s still work to do.

About Aileen Mack

Aileen is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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