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DUI Program Continues to Grow

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 20, 2012 / 01:49pm | Local News, Crime, Faith & Family, Health
STARKVILLE, Miss.--Since its creation in 1972, a Mississippi State program continues its work to keep highways safer by helping alter the habits of those who misuse alcohol and other substances.

A part of the university's Social Science Research Center, the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program is among the nation's oldest driving-under-the-influence intervention programs. The court-mandated, 12-hour program serves 10,000 first-time offenders a year.

With 52 schools in 42 locations statewide, most Mississippians do not have to drive more than 50 miles to attend the four-week course. Participants must pay a $150 fee to participate and are not permitted to retrieve their suspended driver's licenses prior to graduation.

While every state has some version of court-mandated DUI education, MASEP is unique in that it's coordinated statewide. Its affiliation with the university also sets it apart.

"As far as I know, it is the only program of its kind that is connected to a university," said Bill Henderson, MASEP operations coordinator.

Because of this set-up, there are opportunities for research and evaluation that other DUI programs across the nation do not have. Coordinators say MASEP is effective, based on research showing significantly lower rates of recidivism, or reoffending, among those completing the course as compared to those who did not.

"We want this program to be the best it can be, because it's the only one in this state," said Angela Robertson, MASEP research coordinator and SSRC associate director.

MASEP and SSRC officials said ties to the university clearly have made the program more effective. Research and participants' input has enabled the classes to be tailored exactly to participant needs. Over the decades, MASEP has made four major revisions to the standard curriculum.

"Back when MASEP was first started, it was thought most DUI offenders were just social drinkers," Henderson said. "Now, it's not just alcohol or illegal drugs, but prescription drugs, as well. So the curriculum has changed over time to keep up with this."

The current curriculum includes numerous assessments for alcohol use disorders, addictions and usage consequences. Also involved are measures to assess the frequency and amounts of alcohol consumption, binge drinking, other drug use and levels of psychiatric distress.

The assessments provide MASEP participants with more detailed feedback regarding the severity of their alcohol or drug use, as well as any mental health issues that participants may be experiencing. Participants are then informed of the mental health and substance abuse services available in their area. Treatment recommendations or referrals also are made, if needed.

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