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MIT’s Community Development and Substance Abuse Center one of three colleges to win national award

MIT program recognized as a national model for higher education

The MIT Community Development and Substance Abuse Center (CDSA) is one of three college programs to receive the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 2009 Science and Service Award for exemplary implementation of evidence-based services

The CDSA center received the award for its first-of-a-kind implementation of BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), a program providing early identification and brief intervention for college students abusing alcohol.

“MIT was perhaps the first among colleges and universities to apply BASICS in a broad, systemic manner,” said Danny Trujillo, associate dean. “The MIT students and staff who designed and evaluated this national model are recognized for their innovative implementation of an evidence-based strategy for student populations at risk for excessive alcohol use and its associated academic, personal, and social consequences.”

Developed by researchers at the University of Washington in 1991, BASICS applies screening and brief intervention to reduce high-risk alcohol use by college students. Since most heavy drinkers in college see little reason to alter their behavior, BASICS builds motivation to change high-risk behavior through non-judgmental self assessment and personal feedback — a significant departure from most alcohol prevention and intervention approaches that assume people are ready and willing to change.

The Washington research demonstrated considerable reductions in high-risk alcohol use by college students, but for the next decade the research was not used as part of the comprehensive strategies employed in higher education. In 2001, Dr. Adam Silk of the MIT Medical Mental Health Department and Danny Trujillo of the CDSA center worked with Dr. John Baer, one of the lead researchers from the University of Washington, to translate the results into a program for MIT. Together they developed a training module to convey the BASICS approach, making MIT one of the first universities in the country to implement the program.

BASICS is now used at MIT with first-year students, student athletes, students whose alcohol use related behavior elicits concern among their community, students who violate alcohol policies, and students treated by health services with alcohol-related injury or overdose. The CDSA also screens nearly 50 percent of the undergraduate population each year for high-risk alcohol use.

And the results at MIT show that this approach is working: MIT students who participated in BASICS demonstrated a significant reduction in the number of drinks consumed on a typical occasion and reported significantly fewer negative consequences of high-risk alcohol use, including those having a detrimental effect on academic performance and student well-being.

The CDSA center also received a two-year grant this summer in the U.S. Department of Education’s “Competition to Prevent High-Risk Drinking and Violent Behavior Among College Students.” The grant funds MARVIN (The MIT Alcohol-Related Violence Initiative), which addresses alcohol-related violence among MIT students, and is primarily aimed at reducing incidents of hazing, physical violence, sexual violence, and relational aggression.

For more information about CDSA, please visit the CDSA web site

More information about the HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can be found at

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