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By taking a hard line to reduce underage drinking on campus, Western has earned its second grant from the Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative to continue efforts on awareness and prevention.

The Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative (CHCI), administered by Wheeler Clinic, is funded by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services with support from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and U.S. Department of Education.

“We had to show that we are succeeding in our prevention strategies,” said Sharon Guck, coordinator of the WCSU Alcohol and Substance Abuse program, CHOICES. “We are seeing trends in a positive direction.”

The $320,000 grant makes it possible for the university to implement strategies to help reduce binge and underage drinking. Some of these strategies include an alcohol task force, student surveys and guest speakers.

Guck said some of the success is owed to programs in the residence hall and the annual alcohol awareness week. Making changes in the campus environment over recent years has also helped, she said. The university seeks to manage availability and access to alcohol, police the campus and monitor athletic events and on-campus parties.

A survey of Western students indicated that binge drinking decreased six percent from 2006 to 2008 and another six percent between 2008 and 2010. In the 2010 survey, 77 percent stated that in a week they have five drinks or fewer. “Any increase approaching 5 percent is a huge success,” Guck said.

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Students put car keys on “The Promise Tree” signifying a promise to only drive sober. "The Promise Tree" was the result of a campus campaign created by Romona Rivera and other health promotion and exercise sciences students who organized the program. Rivera's son was killed by an impaired driver and she interned in the CHOICES office.