Montana State University plans to overhaul its current alcohol and drug policies to encourage responsible use on campus and in the community.

The Presidential Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention met for the first time Monday evening to discuss the gravity of student alcohol use and abuse.

“Every so often, it’s essential to dust off the current policies and ask, ‘What’s changed?’ and see what we can improve for the sake of the university,” said Matthew Caires, MSU’s dean of students.

The group plans to identify high-risk demographics on campus and hazardous locations around town and target them to make improvements. Speakers -- including police officers, local tavern owners, students, health educators, alumni and concerned residents -- will present their ideas and insight to the group, which plans to meet weekly.

“Alcohol seems to be inherently weaved into college culture,” said Jennifer Haubenreiser, the president of the American College Health Association. “We’re not trying to eliminate it, especially for those who drink responsibly. We’re trying to find a middle ground.”

Regular members of the substance abuse group will include the head of the English department, the head of the sociology department, the dean of students, the ASMSU president, the MSU police chief, the Bozeman School District superintendent and the student leaders of both the residence life and Greek life associations.

According to national statistics, about 25 percent of the nation’s college students ages 18 to 24 report academic consequences due to excessive drinking, while an estimated 1,825 die each year from alcohol-related injuries.

“The ultimate goal is to find a way to actually prevent collegiate substance abuse and implement evidence-based strategies to promote an environment conducive to learning,” Haubenreiser said.

The group will make recommendations to address substance abuse and prevention strategies. The commission will write a final report on its findings for MSU President Waded Cruzado in June.

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