SAFE Coalition formed to combat substance abuse

Drinking culture and partying are a part of every college, but can lead to long-term issues for some. The Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) Coalition has been formed to help combat long term issues related to substance abuse on MSU’s campus.  Marci Torres, the director of health advancement at MSU, deals with all of the prevention and education relating to drugs and alcohol on campus. She serves as the lead staff member for the coalition and explained that it  is not trying to prohibit legal substance use but rather attempting to create a healthy environment for students.

SAFE was formed as a part of the President’s Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention. The commission draft consists of 10 recommendations for combatting substance abuse. Forming a coalition was the first of those recommendations. Others include creating a value statement to unite campus-wide efforts concerning substance abuse, working with Downtown Bozeman on late-night transportation, parking and responsible drinking and examining policies for football games.

The coalition is composed of 32 member from the community and MSU, who meet to discuss current issues. “It’s really a great way to get everyone on the same page and working together,” Torres said. “Our charge as a coalition is to look at the remaining recommendations and talk to members of the community to figure out where to go next.”

The coalition is talking about issues with all kinds of substance abuse. Torres emphasized that the group is not encouraging prohibition. “It’s the abuse piece we’re trying to get rid of,” she said. “The main goal, if you were to ask me, would be to look at the campus environment, as it relates to substance abuse on our campus, and determine if our policies and environment all support our students in making healthy choices and being safe and responsible while making these choices about substance abuse.”

SAFE also focuses on making sure students know where to go if they or someone in their life are dealing with substance abuse. Students are encouraged to first call INSIGHT, the campus resource for substance abuse counseling. MSU also has a center for recovering students called Bobcats in Recovery. They can be found on Facebook or through INSIGHT.

Torres explained that many people do not think young students can have substance abuse problems, and that while MSU’s substance abuse statistics line up with the national average, students may feel a lot of pressure to make harmful decisions because of Montana’s drinking culture. According to a 2013 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 35 percent of college students participate in binge drinking, 10.7 percent used Adderall and 3.6 percent used Ritalin. The report also states that amphetamine use nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013 in general.

“This is kind of our way of stepping out in front of the issue, and making sure the community knows we’re paying attention,” Torres said. “We don’t want to wait until there’s some horrific accident at a football game, or on campus, we want to get out in front of it.”

INSIGHT can be reached at 994-5937.