It was a wake-up call for Putnam County, New York. In 2008, DWI arrests rose an alarming 35 percent. That meant that from a 2006 high of 414 DWI arrests, 2008 arrest figures jumped to 633.
“This drastic increase clearly indicates that more needs to be done to address the growing problem of drinking and driving in Putnam County,” stated Kristin McConnell, executive director of Putnam’s chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies (NCADD).
Focus groups on the issue were sponsored by the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office, and included representatives from Putnam County STOP DWI, Putnam County Mental Health, Social Services and Youth Bureau, and NCADD Putnam. The focus groups further identified a need for action in the area in the form of increased education and intervention.
The educational curriculum the groups came up with is called Rethinking Drinking. The name was chosen to utilize the NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking training manual and used with NIAAA permission. Putnam’s Rethinking Drinking program seeks to educate the adult Putnam County community about alcohol/drug abuse and its consequences, as well as promoting self-evaluation. From the start, Putnam NCADD chose to use two Innocorp products as part of the educational process: intoxiclock® and Sum-It-Cup®.
Rethinking Drinking focuses on persons arrested for DWI, DWAI, or similar offences in Putnam County. It’s part of a pre-plea agreement, with referrals made by the District Attorney’s Office. Defendants who opt into the program (with the DA’s recommendation) may get a sentence reduction as long as they remain in compliance with the program and any judicial requirements.
Participants go through the in-person interactive instruction and group discussion that forms the core of the Rethinking Drinking curriculum. In addition, the District Attorney presents an overview of DWI to educate participants. The program follows that up with intoxiclock® and Sum-It-Cup® sessions. McConnell sees them as a vital educational tool in the program.
“It was important that we have interactive, hands-on components to the program,” she says. “The intoxiclock® and Sum-It-Cup® are also significant because many times people don’t realize how much alcohol they are being served. They (intoxiclock® and Sum-It-Cup®) offer real-life examples and shed some light on how much they are actually consumingand the rate at which the body metabolizes alcohol.” Rethinking Drinking started operating in Putnam County in 2012. Thirty-nine offenders have completed the program to date. While it’s too early to evaluate the program yet, McConnell has gotten positive feedback from participants on intoxiclock® and Sum-It- Cup®. They stated that they learned the size of an actual drink and how some drinks are really more than just one.
“One hundred percent of program participants have reported an increase in knowledge and many have reported the group activities were very helpful,” says McConnell. “By the end of the program, participants have acquired knowledge of alcohol and other drugs as well as a better understanding of their responsibility to the social system and of the dynamics leading to addiction.”
McConnell believes that the public, whether they’ve been involved in a DWI incident or not, needs to understand the information that intoxiclock® and Sum-It-Cup® give: the amount of alcohol they are actually being served and are consuming.
“These products provide an educational and interactive way to demonstrate how a person’s level of intoxication changes with increasing levels of alcohol consumption and the rate at which the body metabolizes alcohol,” she notes. “I think that once people have a true understanding of this, they are much more likely to make better choices when they consume alcohol.”