Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

South Carolina Workgroup Supports Local Efforts to Curb Underage Drinking

Date Published:Apr 14, 2011

South Carolina has developed a new resource to help prevention advocates across the state identify, access, and implement evidence-based practices to reduce underage drinking and alcohol-related car crashes.

The WEB, or Workgroup on Evidence-Based Practice, is comprised of prevention experts, researchers, and specialists who represent local coalitions and state agencies that oversee public safety, juvenile justice, education, and public health. Its 12 members meet monthly to review local data, discuss new research, and streamline state efforts to expand the use of effective and proven prevention practices in local communities.

“The WEB has synthesized research in the areas of underage drinking prevention and alcohol-related crashes, and now provides a menu of effective strategies to local communities working to address these two statewide priority areas,” says Dr. Pam Imm, WEB Co-Chair a consultant with SAMHSA's Collaborative for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT). SAMHSA's CAPT provides training and technical assistance for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), which funds much of South Carolina’s federal prevention dollars.

Initially, 14 counties will benefit from the work of the WEB. After assessing their local needs and risk factors, and developing their own strategic prevention plans, coalitions in the funded counties will receive their share of the state’s CSAP infrastructure grant—about $10 million over five years—to implement their plans. The WEB’s expertise in evidence-based prevention saves the local groups time and money in research and planning, enabling them to focus on implementing appropriate strategies to reach successful outcomes in a shorter timeframe.

Central to the WEB’s work is educating the county-based coalitions about effective environmental prevention strategies, which focus on community change—rather than individual change—to reduce underage drinking or drunk driving, explains Michelle Neinhius, lead prevention coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS). Examples of such strategies include sobriety checkpoints, media campaigns, training alcohol merchants on proper identification practices, and lobbying for legislative changes regarding alcohol access and consumption.

“Emphasizing environmental strategies takes prevention in South Carolina to the next level,” Neinhius says. “It’s a scientific approach of looking at local data and working across agencies to make a difference in each county.”

In January, the WEB provided a full-day training for representatives from all funded coalitions; members presented information on the variety of evidence-based environmental strategies available to reduce underage drinking and DUI crashes. Next up for the WEB is updating an online “prevention toolkit” on the DAODAS Web site to include a comprehensive listing of effective environmental strategies. The WEB also is providing feedback to local coalitions as they select and refine strategies that best fit the needs in their communities.

Eventually the information and organizational resources of the WEB will jump start the prevention efforts of all counties in South Carolina. “Ultimately, we want to help every county in South Carolina create and implement their own strategic plans with evidence-based environmental strategies that target their own risk factors,” Imm explains. “This will increase the likelihood of reducing underage drinking and DUI crashes more efficiently and effectively.”