USD program aims to reduce binge drinking

Volunteers are being sought to give input into a program that hopes to decrease binge drinking in Vermillion.

The project falls under a Strategic Prevention Framework � State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG) received by the state of South Dakota in 2009, through which communities can seek funds to implement plans to curb underage drinking among 12-20-year-olds and binge drinking in 18-25-year-olds.

A coalition to design a Vermillion-specific program is now being built through the efforts of SPF-SIG officials at the University of South Dakota.

�What we�re trying to do is decrease the risk factors and increase the protective factors for binge drinking in the community,� said USD SPF-SIG evaluator Gary DeJong. �We�re trying to find a nice representation of the community � all different aspects of the community � to work together in the partnership to implement environmental strategies to reduce binge drinking.�

This is being achieved through a variety of different venues.

�We�re sending out letters. We�re advertising to the community, we�re going to the Chamber of Commerce � to try and get the word out about what we�re doing to see if there�s anybody in the community that�s motivated to help,� DeJong said.

USD SPF-SIG project director Tiffany Kashas said a Web site also is in development.

DeJong said the effort seeks participation from all areas of the community � students, parents and concerned citizens.

�We have a good framework of people, but we want to get the word out to try to get more community involvement,� he said. �Based on that group of people, we�ll come up with an idea of how we want to tackle the problem. And once we find out how we want to tackle it, we�ll implement evidence-based programs, programs that were already tried and tested and true, so they�re valid and reliable.�

Kashas said the model for the program must be complete by May 31 for submission to the state.

�Then they�ll let us know � how much of our plan is approved,� she said.

In 2009, the state was awarded a grant in the amount of $2.135 million per year for five years, $1.5 million of which is given to the communities who are approved for participation in the program.

Vermillion will take part over the next three years.

Although the SPF-SIG provides funds to curb both underage and binge drinking, it was discovered through research that binge drinking was a bigger concern in Vermillion.

�First of all, we did a very extensive needs assessment where we interviewed a lot of local people, law enforcement, counselors, did a lot of surveys to find out what the community�s perception was on the binge drinking,� DeJong said. �With the statistical data and the perceptional data, we found that there was a significant need to implement environmental strategies.�

The three biggest downfalls resulting from binge drinking as shown by the data were in regard to sexual activity, violence � intention and non-intentional � and issues concerning law enforcement.

Although the data can not yet be distributed, DeJong said one only has to check the records of the local public law enforcement agencies to see how significant the problem really is.

�Those those kinds of statistics alone show what kind of problem we have locally,� he said. �I will say that there seems to be a very large, multi-generational problem that continues to go on, and it�s probably not something that�s very easy to tackle. So I think this project is very worthwhile � but it�s something that will not happen overnight.�

While the particulars of the plan have not yet been established, one thing DeJong and Kashas said was that those involved in the project should not be perceived as �fun-haters.�

�We realize prohibition didn�t work, and so we�re just trying to have people make healthy decisions when it comes to drinking,� DeJong said.

�In some of the interviews and some of the meetings we�ve had, there�s been a lot of community members that have been appreciative of us not pointing fingers,� Kashas added. �We�re being more open and we�re trying to work collaboratively to tackle the problem. �

�I�m really excited to build partnerships in the community because it�s such a needed thing in order to get community-wide change. Whichever direction we go, I think, will be positive,� she said.

For those interested in getting involved, Kashas can be reached by e-mailing, and DeJong can be reached at

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