Kent agency launches website to improve the health of 18 to 25 year olds

Michael Crissman

Binge drinking and high-risk alcohol use is prevalent among Kent State students, according to data collected by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County. To fight the problem, the agency formed a coalition with others in the Kent community. It launched a project last month called #18to25, a new website and social media campaign aimed at reducing alcohol use among local 18-to 25-year-olds.

The website,, is a resource center of area substance abuse services as well as blogs and articles on a wide range of health topics — drinking, stress management, exercise, maintaining good health and others. MHRB’s message isn’t solely focused on alcohol, but rather how a young adult can lead an overall healthy lifestyle.

“Although the main goal of our coalition and the project is to reduce high-risk alcohol use, on our website we don’t want to say, ‘Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol,’” said Dana Mowls, Kent State public health graduate student and intern at MHRB, “That’s just going to deter 18-to 25-year-olds, as it would me. It’s known that if you lead a healthy lifestyle, you’re less likely to engage in alcohol use.”

The #18to25 website is linked to Twitter and Facebook accounts of the same name. Amie Cajka, director of community relations at MHRB, said social media is better equipped at changing attitudes toward drinking today than traditional methods like public service advertising.

“People in that age range are used to being a click away from some piece of information that they’re even remotely interested in,” Cajka said. “It’ll end up on a friend’s Facebook page, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, that looks interesting.’ And they’ll go and check it out. That’s where we feel like it’s going to hit that age group more so than if we tried to do newspaper ads.”

Back in April, the Recovery Board conducted an online alcohol and drug survey with Kent State students. Among respondents 18 to 25, 86.7 percent said they had consumed alcohol at least once in the past month, compared to the Ohio average of 64 percent for the same age group.

In the same survey, 40.9 percent of Kent State students reported binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks within a short time span) at least once in the past month. Only 30 percent of those surveyed viewed it as a risk.

Cajka and others at MHRB believe using statistics taken directly from local students is a much more effective tool than using data taken from outside the community. The 18-to-25 age range was targeted because of how pattern-forming the time is for how someone acts the rest of their life.

“If you are able to manage all of your tasks now and drink responsibly, then you’re more likely to do that later,” said Kattie Martineau, another Kent State public health graduate student interning at MHRB. “Whereas if you lose control now, it’s probably a pattern you’re going to have for a really long time.”

The Recovery Board received a four-year grant from the federal government totaling $327,000 two years ago to help reduce alcohol and drug abuse at Kent State and Hiram College. MHRB also formed the Portage Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition with Townhall II, Kent State University, the Kent Police Department and several other groups throughout Portage County that all have a vested interest in improving the health of local 18-to 25-year-olds.

MHRB has already completed their “needs assessment” and is currently working on implementing prevention strategies that are evidence-based. The new #18to25 initiative is one of the first major steps toward spteading their message to Kent State students. Recovery Board officials say they’ll also be working closely with university groups on campus to develop educational programs for students in the near future.

Contact Michael Crissman at [email protected].