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Number of high-risk drinking letters sent to UI parents decreases

BY REBECCA MORIN | APRIL 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Parents of University of Iowa students recieved a little less mail from the university last semester regarding their students’ dangerous drinking habits.

In fall 2012, UI officials sent 47 parent-notification letters regarding students who had been found passed out in a public location or transported to the emergency room because of high-risk alcohol consumption.

However, that number has dropped from the 58 letters sent in fall 2011.

The number of letters for fall 2012 decreased to around the same number of letters sent before the 21-ordinace was implemented. In 2009,  officials sent 45 letters  to parents.

Although the number of letters sent home has decreased, officials from the Johnson County Ambulance Service have not seen a decrease in people being transferred to the emergency room.

“We are busier now than last year, as well as the year before,” said Steve Spenler, the director of the Johnson County Ambulance Service. “Last fall, we had some extremely busy weekends, especially the UI-Iowa State game.”

UI officials created a comprehensive plan in 2010 to target students’ alcohol consumption, and they believe they are now seeing those results come to fruition.

The Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan is in its third year and targets four denominators that students face around campus and in the community involving alcohol.

“We’re taking a comprehensive approach that targets not only the campus but the community,” said Kelly Bender, harm-reduction-initiatives coordinator for the Partnership for Alcohol Safety. “We want students to focus more on academic life rather than a social life.”

The plan was created from research that statistically proved alcohol education is ineffective, Bender said.

“Research says cultural change is not made by education, but to be effective, you must alter the conditions influencing students’ choices,” she said. “Altering issues related to easy access of alcohol, physical availability of it, how it is being marketed, and how much it costs is a priority.”

Bender expressed her concern about the number of students responding to the Responsible Action Protocol, a policy that was implemented in case a student was in danger from overdosing on alcohol.

“There is an increase of students calling for help for friends,” she said. “But students still should not feel afraid to call for help; it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

UI Dean of Students David Grady said since the implementation of the Responsible Action Protocol, the number of students making emergency calls has leveled off.

“[There was] an increase over when there was no policy, but the numbers are low and steady,” Grady said in an email, referring to the Responsible Action Protocol. “Even though [the calls are] low, every call results in a student getting the emergency assistance that he or she needs.”


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