California State University, Long Beach
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ATOD Program Assists Students

Published: March 1, 2013

When CSULB students seek information or have concerns regarding alcohol, tobacco or drugs, the campus provides assistance through its Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) Program, located at the university’s Student Health Services (SHS).

For years, universities throughout the nation had been challenged with student use of alcohol, so based on recommendations set forth by the CSU Chancellor in 2001, the ATOD Program was established system-wide by the CSU. Through education and prevention efforts, the program utilizes innovative programming, peer education, campus outreach and community collaborations, with the goal to reduce harm to students, encourage dialogue regarding students’ behavior, facilitate skill-building and academic success, and demonstrate the diversity and unique qualities to provide valuable university opportunities.

Linda Peña, health educator/ counselor, and Jennifer Layno, health education assistant in the SHS, stress that the CSULB ATOD Program offers prevention, education and intervention. When the program began under the leadership of Vice President of Student Services Doug Robinson, the ATOD Advisory Council was established. It is comprised of campus and community representatives, all of whom are involved in three subcommittees—policy and assessment, education and marketing, and intervention and treatment.

“Through the Chancellor’s mandate, a specifically defined ATOD Program can work in collaboration with campus organizations such as the University Police, Housing and Residential Life, the Office of Judicial Affairs, and Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) and alcohol and drug issues can be addressed effectively and positively,” said Peña. “By these entities working together, the campus can respond and offer support for those students who might have been cited for on-campus use, have legal issues and/or symptoms of substance abuse.”

A key component of the ATOD Program is its Step 1-2-3 Education Plan, created as part of the disciplinary process for students who violate campus policies related to alcohol and/or drugs. Step 1 is the educational component of ATOD and is for students who have been cited on campus for any alcohol or drug violation for the first time. They must complete the ATOD Step 1 mandatory class, a two-hour session where discussion covers responsible decision-making, negative consequences of alcohol and drug use, and compliance with campus policy and regulations.

Aside from designated areas such at The Nugget, CSULB is considered a dry campus, and students receive citations for alcohol and/or drug violations on campus. The ATOD Program provides counseling for students who are experiencing issues with possible substance abuse and they might be referred from CaPS, athletics, judicial, housing or SHS clinicians. However, Peña claimed that most students do not see themselves as having a problem and she highlights the importance of making a connection with them through counseling sessions.

“I am always looking for or listening to see if they reveal something about their life that is not working,” she said, “and if alcohol or drugs play a part in them not attaining their goals.”

There are an average of six to 10 students per each Step 1 class, in which there is discussion and a PowerPoint presentation that specifically highlights the stages of alcohol poisoning and clarifies the “myth” of tolerance. It is important for all students to know that deaths from alcohol poisoning usually happen to “experienced” drinkers. Many students confide that because they know how to drink they will never run the risk of death, while in truth they are the ones who are at greater risk for a fatality.

Linda Peña (l) and Jennifer Layno.

Step 2 is a counseling session for a student cited on campus for a second policy violation and who has already completed Step 1. The 50-minute one-on-one session allows students to examine their alcohol and drug use and how it assists or hinders their health and/or academic success. Within a safe environment, the student can share any concerns they may or may not have about their use. The most important aspect of a Step 2 session, however, is to create a plan in collaboration with the student on how to prevent a third citation that automatically ensures a housing student losing on-campus residency. Peña noted it is critically significant for the student to understand it is well within their power to not get another write-up if they are willing to change.

Additionally, the ATOD Program offers to students, weekly Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and individual counseling for those who wish to make changes in their alcohol and drug use.

“We’ve been doing AA meetings for 10 years, so we have had a lot of students come in and we’ve had a lot of success,” Peña explained. “Many students who stay in contact tell me they are so grateful that there was a meeting on campus.”

To increase awareness about alcohol use, the ATOD Program makes a great effort to get its message out in a variety of ways, providing a wide range of information to students to help them make an educated decision concerning alcohol, tobacco or drug use. This information is presented in programs such as the QUIT Now Smoking Cessation Program, HEADS UP! Peer Education Program and the E-CHUG & E-TOKE online assessment.

“ATOD outreach efforts include presentations at student/parent orientation programs, fraternity and sorority meetings and distribution of a birthday e-card to students on their 21st birthday, which includes tips on alcohol responsibility and how to celebrate their birthday safely,” said Layno. “Additional outreach activities involve letters sent to students just prior to spring and summer breaks; advertising through the student newspaper; and informational door hangers for the residence halls highlighting the signs of alcohol poisoning and who to call in case of an emergency.

“Students do remember things we send out to them,” Layno added. “They will tell us that they used it in their class or used it with their friends, so I’m confident people are paying attention to what we are doing. Over the years we have learned more and more what the students’ needs are and what they are actually looking for as far as resources about alcohol and drugs.”

“We work closely with Housing, CaPS, Judicial Affairs and the University Police,” said Peña. “I think we have a lot of support here on campus and I feel that others respect what we do. There is a need for us and both Jennifer and I are very passionate about what we do.”