In the last three years, the UC Davis Medical Center has seen a 60 percent increase in the number of 12- to 17-year-olds who end up in the ER as a result of alcohol related injuries. While the average adolescent drinking age is decreasing – currently at 15.8 years old – the dangers are increasing, as more youth are at risk for severe post-adolescent drinking disorders and alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities.
To combat this frightening statistic, the UC Davis Medical Center has teamed up with three hospitals in Sacramento County to implement a two-year pilot project titled the Adolescent Screening and Brief Prevention Program, which will start in January 2009. It is funded by a $500,000 grant from the State of California Office of Traffic Safety.
Dana Covington, a 20-year UC Davis Medical Center emergency room nurse and project coordinator for the program, describes the program as a concerted effort to “decrease underage drinking in the county as a whole.”
According to Covington, intoxicated adolescents who arrive in the ER “would be given a series of questions that ask them about their drinking behaviors, and then they’re measured against norms. Then, a nurse goes in and talks with the kid to see where they’re at, what their drinking is about, and they try and plant a seed of change to discourage this behavior in the future.”
The program’s methodology follows an established practice of screening and brief intervention, which, according to the Davis Medical Center, is already used to educate intoxicated adults who are seen in emergency departments in California and throughout the country.
The screening and brief intervention model has also been used effectively in the UC Davis Cowell Student Health Center to assist students who take part in the BASIC program, which stands for Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students.
“I think we’ve seen good successes with the program for adolescents and adult college students, so it could be successful for teenagers as well,” said Michelle Johnston, the Health Promotion Supervisor for the UC Davis Cowell Student Health Center.
In addition to the in-hospital screenings, Covington has developed a take-home resource guide for patients that provides a number of websites, counseling hotlines and resources for alcohol abuse. An online version of the guide is available to the public on the UC Davis Medical Center’s website at ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/injuryprevention.
The Cowell Student Heath Center also offers a number of alcohol abuse prevention resources, which are free and easily accessible on their website at healthcenter.ucdavis.edu/hep/ or in person at the Health Education and Promotion Center located near the Reagan Dorm Complex behind the Cowell Student Health Center.
MICHELLE IMMEL can be reached at email@example.com.