North Carolina Central University’s Juvenile Justice Institute has been awarded a three-year grant totaling $897,840 to develop techniques for reducing rates of alcohol and drug abuse and HIV transmission among 18 to 24 year olds.
The initiative is known as the Campus Community Coalition (3C) and taps the expertise of five academic departments within NCCU and two outside agencies. The funds were awarded to the Juvenile Justice Institute by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The collaborative effort recognizes the close interaction of the campus population with the larger Durham community, said Arnold Dennis, executive director of the Juvenile Justice Institute.
“If we can begin to deal with preventing substance abuse and reducing the transmission of HIV using the wealth of knowledge we have from our behavior and social science faculty, we can work towards making sure that our students and the surrounding community will not be pulled into these addictive and harmful behaviors,” Dennis said.
Community agencies involved with the project are Together for Resilient Youth, a Durham-based advocacy group better known as TRY, and the Durham County Department of Public Health. Academic partners include the NCCU departments of Psychology, Public Health Education, Social Work, Criminal Justice, and Student Health and Counseling Services.
An initial phase of the project begun earlier this year involved on-campus surveys to explore prevailing habits and attitudes regarding sex and drug and alcohol use among young adults ages 18 to 24. A similar evaluation will take place at the end of the project to measure the impact of education and other deterrence efforts on the behavior of young adults on and off campus.
Ten student/peer mediators and two summer graduate assistants have paid positions with the project. They are developing social media campaigns and other educational outreach efforts regarding the dangers of substance abuse and strategies for HIV prevention. Activities have included placement of condom machines in public restrooms and meeting with area retailers to emphasize the dangers of selling alcohol to underage youth.
The involvement of students will insure that the techniques employed are appropriate based on the age, culture and values of the target population, Dennis said.
“The university wants to engage in partnership with the community to work on a serious problem that we’re facing,” said Dennis. “We want to educate and by that, reduce alcohol and drug use that can potentially lead to HIV.”