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September 9, 2011

DPHHS releases report on work of Montana Community Change Project

Long term project focused on reducing alcohol abuse in Montana

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) awarded six Montana organizations funding in 2008 to identify a specific alcohol abuse related issue plaguing their community.

Each organization then spent the next three years addressing those issues.

Today, DPHHS released a 200-page report that documents the work of the federally-funded Montana Community Change Project (MCCP).

Specifically, the groups were asked to tackle issues identified statewide including decreasing student binge drinking, drinking and driving and alcohol-related vehicle crashes. 

The organizations reached out to county commissioners, tribal leaders, law enforcement and school superintendents and together several efforts were made to mitigate the problems associated with substance abuse problems in Montana communities.

By working together, several positive changes have occurred in the past three years, including:

  • The adoption of social host ordinances in communities,
  • increased use of ignition interlocks and SCRAM bracelets to deter repeat DUI offenses,
  • increased alcohol sales compliance checks,
  • successful implementation of voluntary Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service Training in many communities, and
  • increased community awareness through planned media.

“I congratulate all those who participated in this project and applaud their many successes,” DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell said. “The work that went into this project will go a long way in saving lives, money and changing the community norm and attitudes across our state about alcohol abuse. There is work yet to be done, but today this effort is making a difference one step at a time.”

The MCCP was federally funded with nearly $9 million divided among six Montana organizations including Havre HELP Committee, District II Alcohol and Drug Services, Blackfeet Housing, Butte-Silver Bow County Health Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Flathead Reservation and Lake County Coalition for Kids.

The project impacted the following reservations/counties: Blackfeet, Flathead and Fort Peck Reservations and the counties of Glacier, Silver Bow, Madison, Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Powell, Sheridan, Roosevelt, Richland, Dawson, Wibaux, Lake, Mineral, Sanders, Lincoln, Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Jefferson, Whitehall, and Boulder.

According to Vicki Turner of the DPHHS Prevention Resource Center, the vast community involvement at all levels was the key to the project’s success. “This work would not have been possible without the support at the local level,” Turner said. “Success in local communities across the state is changing the conversation and culture in developing and implementing local policies to address these issues.”

The report reflects the positive impacts of the MCCP project in communities and the numerous advances that were made all across Montana.

There are many specific success stories to report.

In Jefferson County, youth issued a minor-in-possession citation (MIP) now participate in a new program called Restorative Community Service (RCS), an evidence-based program that partners volunteer community mentors with youth who work side-by-side on a project the community finds meaningful. In the first nine months of the project, nearly 49 youth had been referred to the program and collectively these youth had engaged in almost 1,500 hours of community service. They have worked on projects such as constructing a new pavilion in the park, building a veteran’s memorial, planting flowers around town with the Garden Club, summer projects at the school, and cleaning up at a historic building among many others.

In Eastern Montana, Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service (RASS) trainings are now being offered consistently in the counties of Wibaux, Dawson, Richland, Sheridan, Roosevelt and the Fort Peck Resevation. Dawson County also initiated a 4-Star Program to recognize and motive businesses to participate in RASS.
On the Fort Peck Reservation, a reservation-wide Social Host ordinance passed by the Fort Peck Tribal Council, and the cities of Poplar and Wolf Point. DUI laws on the reservation have been amended to make the 3rd DUI in a lifetime a felony.

In Dawson County, the fair board is being required to contain the use of alcohol to certain areas, or they will not be able to sell alcohol in the future.

In Silver Bow County, the city council voted to fund a misdemeanor probation officer to monitor MIP/DUI offender compliance with sentencing requirements.

The report also includes several general themes that occurred statewide.

On binge drinking, the report shows that:

  • Rates of student binge drinking in MTCCP counties were reduced including rates for American Indian students. Prior to 2010 their rates were significantly higher compared to the state and other non-MTCCP rural counties.

On drinking and driving, the report shows that:

  • MTCCP counties were significantly above state and other rural rates of student drinking and driving in 2008.  Two years later, by which time MTCCP counties were in full implementation of their environmental strategies, student drinking and driving rates had declined significantly in these counties and were essentially equal to other rural counties and slightly above state rates. 

On alcohol-related vehicle crashes, the report shows that:

  • Percentage decreases between 2009 and 2010 in alcohol crashes within the MTCCP counties were significantly larger than the percentage decrease in statewide rates of alcohol-related crashes.

On community cultural norms and attitudes, the report shows that:

  • MTCCP high school students reported a significant increase in their self-perception of drinking being wrong.  This indicator increased 7 percentage points to 40% of students reporting in Montana’s Prevention Needs Assessment survey. 

On law enforcement, the report shows that:

  • Statewide there was an increase in DUI arrests between 2006 and 2009. 
  • MTCCP counties followed this state trend with significantly greater increases in the number of DUI arrests in 2008 and 2009.  The 382 increased number of DUI arrests within MTCCP counties accounted for the major portion of Montana DUI arrests between 2008 and 2009 with MTCCP’s increased numbers offsetting decreases in the number of DUI arrests in urban counties.
  • The significant increase in DUI arrests in MTCCP counties coincides with 2009 as the first year of active implementation of environmental strategies implemented at the community level by the MTCCP. 
  • This positive outcome is one of the underlying contributing factors to Montana’s downward trend in alcohol-related vehicle crashes. 

Funding for the MTCCP was through the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant grant distributed by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), a federal agency that works with states and communities to develop comprehensive prevention systems that create healthy communities.

The report, conducted by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, is available online at http://www.bber.umt.edu/health/papers.asp
Page last updated: 07/30/2013