Governor McCrory’s executive order creates substance abuse task force
With Chancellor Steve Ballard and Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy standing beside him, Gov. Pat McCrory signed an executive order May 13 that creates a multi-agency task force aimed at reducing substance abuse and underage drinking.
The governor signed the executive order in Mendenhall Student Center at East Carolina University, one of six University of North Carolina campuses that will take part in a pilot program that will emphasize prevention and treatment. ECU will join UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina A&T, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington and UNC Greensboro in the pilot.
The Governor’s Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force will build on statewide prevention, treatment and enforcement initiatives implemented by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, the Department of Health and Human Services and the UNC system.
“The physical, mental and social costs of addiction can last a lifetime,” McCrory said. “Substance abuse often starts in a person’s youth which is why we are targeting our efforts on early intervention and treatment.”
Hardy, who is vice chancellor for Student Affairs at ECU, said, “This is a timely conversation and one we welcome. High-risk drinking and an increase in the abuse of prescription and other illicit drugs plague every college campus across this country and create a wide range of challenges that are important to higher education communities.”
Ballard said at the event, “East Carolina is very proud of our commitment to service and to North Carolina. We are excited to be part of the solutions to underage drinking.”
ECU has implemented education, prevention and intervention initiatives that include: educating students during orientation; having required electronic education modules; offering programming for specific groups like Greek life and student athletes; and providing assessment, counseling and referral resources.
“The next important step for our campus and others across the state is to build recovery initiatives to help them stop the cycle of addiction,” Hardy said.
The College Recovery Communities will allow ECU to create a support network of services to assist students along their developmental and educational journey, Hardy said.
UNC-Charlotte is a national leader in on-campus prevention and treatment. It is the first UNC institution to have a campus recovery center and it provides scholarships to students receiving substance abuse treatment.
The task force will also build on statewide enforcement efforts by ALE to crack down on licensed establishments that violate state laws.
“Underage drinking is not a simple rite of passage,” said Department of Public Safety Sec. Frank L. Perry. “One of our main goals is to stop minors from purchasing, possessing and using alcohol, and to stop others from procuring alcohol for minors.
“Many people do not realize the physical and mental damage drinking can cause, or the danger it can present to others,” he said.
The ABC Commission will concentrate on preventing underage drinking among middle, high school, and underage college students.
“It’s going to take a culture shift to address the issue of underage drinking in North Carolina,” said ABC Chairman Jim Gardner. “We’re uniting everyone: parents, students, educators, law enforcement, industry, the prevention community and concerned citizens of our state. We’re going to work together on a full-scale campaign to raise awareness, equip parents with the resources they need, and as a result, reduce underage drinking across the state.”
During the event, Harrisburg Mayor Steven Sciascia told the audience of the 2011 car accident that killed his 19-year-old son Joseph and debilitated his best friend, Dillon Rogers. Rogers, who was driving while intoxicated, survived the wreck but can no longer care for himself because of brain damage.
As the event concluded McCrory said, “This is not a one-time fix-it, it’s not a panacea, it’s a long-term process to change the culture of this ‘rite of passage.’”
The Governor’s Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force will be led by ABC Chairman Gardner and DPS Secretary Frank L. Perry.