Written By Frank L. Perry
Secretary of Public Safety and Governor’s Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force Co-Chair
When Governor McCrory asked ABC Commission Chairman Jim Gardner and me to co-chair a Task Force focused on preventing and treating underage drinking and substance abuse, I knew we had a significant challenge ahead of us. But, considering the great toll underage drinking and substance abuse already take on the citizens of this great state, I was honored and eager to confront this challenge head on.
Our 20-member Task Force included a diverse group of professionals, with backgrounds in recovery and treatment, education, law enforcement, and the alcohol industry itself. Beginning in 2015, we met frequently to hear from universities, treatment centers, law enforcement officers in the field, and leading researchers in the fields of drug and alcohol addiction. The information provided in our meetings helped us develop comprehensive recommendations in three specific areas of concern: (1) the underage sale and use of alcohol and drugs, (2) risky behaviors and substance abuse among collegians, and (3) the provision of treatment and recovery services.
To reduce the sale of alcohol to underage buyers, the Task Force recommended:
- Making responsible service training mandatory for anyone who sells or serves alcohol in North Carolina.
- Strengthening preventative fake identification laws which would discourage underage individuals from obtaining and using a fake identification.
- Increasing the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for anyone who knowingly allows or provides alcohol to underage persons, in cases that result in death.
- Expanding the budget of the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch to hire additional agents to more effectively monitor ABC permitted establishments statewide.
Addressing risky behaviors on college campuses is difficult, particularly when a new batch of freshmen arrive at school every year. To sustainably and effectively address these behaviors, the Task Force recommended:
- The General Assembly appropriate recurring funding to replicate the “Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences” (SPARC) intervention techniques at an additional six public universities, six private universities, and six community colleges statewide.
- Universities and colleges review their policies and share best practices with one another on preventing and treating college student alcohol and drug use.
- Statewide agencies—such as the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services; the NC Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch; and the NC Department of Public Instruction—develop a cooperative plan for reducing tobacco and alcohol sales to minors, particularly on college campuses.
Finally, recognizing that prevention is only one piece of the solution, the Task Force addressed the provision of treatment and recovery services. Early substance abuse is the highest predictive factor for adult addiction. If we can prevent substance abuse early, this will ultimately reduce the burden on treatment and recovery services in our state. Therefore, the Task Force recommended:
- Require all state funded colleges to enforce alcohol and other drug policies through brief motivational intervention and alcohol screening.
- Funding for the development of five Recovery Community Centers to be strategically placed throughout the state.
- The development of an interactive treatment and recovery web-based resources map to be added to the “Talk it Out” website, with information on where to find these resources throughout the state.
I am confident that by employing a diverse range of solutions with a long-term commitment, we will be able to better keep North Carolina’s youth safer from the harms of underage drinking and substance abuses.