B.C. public post-secondary institutions will have access to additional supports to address substance use thanks to a $400,000 investment from the Province for a project co-led by the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research (CARBC) and the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division, Health Minister Terry Lake announced today.
According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment Canadian survey, among post-secondary students who reported drinking the last time they socialized, 26% had seven or more drinks, and 39% of students who drank alcohol in the last year said they later regretted something they did when drinking.
“As a parent I know it can be tough to talk to young people about responsible alcohol use, but the statistics are concerning,” said Lake. “Helping to shift the culture towards moderate use at this pivotal point in a young person’s life can help set them on the right track.”
Changing the Culture of Substance Use is a long-term project that requires engagement from several levels of society, including communities, organizations, campus administration and individuals.
“Post-secondary students need to make informed choices on the use of alcohol,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. “Facilitating a conversation on the use of alcohol is a good way to ensure that students have the full facts.”
“As we continue to modernize liquor laws in B.C., it is important to focus on raising awareness and developing strategies to reduce the potential harms associated with excessive drinking. This funding will help address the call for education and awareness among youth – adding to the arsenal of tools that we are using to further protect the health and social wellbeing of British Columbians,” said Coralee Oakes, Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch. “We have already implemented mandatory social responsibility materials in licensed establishments, minimum drink prices at bars and restaurants, and enhanced Serving It Right training for people serving liquor, and we continue to keep health and safety at the forefront of our work.”
Project researchers are working with public post-secondary institutions to create a wider range of resources and strategies, which will engage key groups such as student leaders, students in residence and those in their first year.
“The University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research is pleased to continue its partnership with the Ministry of Health to ensure available evidence is utilized in real-world applications that improve the health of British Columbians,” said Dan Reist, an assistant director at the centre. “In particular, the investment in changing the culture of substance use on post-secondary campuses currently supports locally-developed, centrally-supported projects at 11 institutions and active planning at several others.”
Examples of existing resources include the Drink with Class campaign at Thompson Rivers University which relates to students during their first six weeks in residence with multiple engagement strategies to encourage a culture of responsible drinking. As well, Selkirk College has a Dinner Baskets Conversations program, designed to offer students the opportunity to prepare and enjoy a meal together on a regular basis, and to talk about substance use on campus and how the culture can be changed.
“As someone who is going on their fourth year living in this residence, I have noticed a big change in how people drink and party in residence,” said Hailee-Jean Lindgren, a student at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. “In my first year, there were stories of residence advisors needing to stay up all hours because parties kept being moved throughout the night. In my third year, when Drink with Class was first introduced, it turned around so that residents were willingly telling resident assistants about parties and asking for help in keeping those parties under control.”
Campus-community partnerships are also being developed to help promote healthier relationships with alcohol among students. Recognizing that campuses exist within the context of a larger community, the partnerships will work with partners such as bars, pubs and transportation systems.
“The Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division appreciates the continued investments in student mental health and well-being by the Ministry of Health,” said Bev Gutray, CEO at CMHA BC. “The Changing the Culture of Substance Use project is an integral part of our work promoting student mental health across British Columbia, through Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses. With continued government investment, and in partnership with CARBC, we have built a strong and active network of B.C. campuses focused on ensuring the conditions are in place to increase participation in, and completion of, post-secondary education for all students.”
This investment aligns with the provincial government's 10-year mental-health and substance use plan, Healthy Minds, Healthy People, which focuses on prevention, early intervention, treatment and sustainability of mental health and substance use supports. The announcement meets a commitment within the plan to provide more substance use initiatives throughout the province.
The Province also offers Alcohol Sense, a comprehensive suite of online resources aimed at providing parents with tools to guide and educate their children to make healthy decisions about alcohol through critical thinking and conversation.
Also supporting the goals of the project, starting in May 2016, all retail liquor stores in British Columbia, including BC Liquor Stores, must guarantee they don’t sell liquor for less than the minimum price set by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. This change will help ensure liquor is not sold at prices that may encourage the abuse or overconsumption of alcohol, and establishes a baseline to ensure that prices remain at appropriate levels with a view to public health and safety.
For more information about the project, visit: www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/projects/active/projects/ccsu.php
For more information on Heathy Minds | Healthy Campuses, visit: http://healthycampuses.ca/
To learn more about Alcohol Sense, visit: https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/topic/alcohol-sense
More information on the 2013 National College Health Assessment Canadian survey is at: http://www.cacuss.ca/_Library/documents/NCHA-II_WEB_SPRING_2013_CANADIAN_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf
More information on liquor minimum pricing can be found at: http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/lclb/docs-forms/policy-directive-2016-04.pdf
A backgrounder follows.