Student alcohol related emergencies on the rise in Amherst - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Student alcohol related emergencies on the rise in Amherst

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Despite efforts from the town and the University of Massachusetts, alcohol related emergencies are on the rise.

"They're pre-disposed to the bad behavior before they get out here," said Amherst Fire Chief Timothy Nelson, speaking of college students in his town. Specifically, the ones who generate the alcohol related emergency calls his department responds to each year.

The department said over the last three years, those numbers have gone up.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the department responded to 77 alcohol related calls out of 282 total emergencies involving students.

Last year, that number was 91 out of 288.

So far this year, they have had 59 alcohol related calls, nearly two-thirds of all of last year.

Nelson said it is a strain on the department.

"We're close to that tipping point at times," Nelson stated. "What these calls do, where kids have chosen to do the wrong thing, that gets us right up to the tipping point or we go over."

To bring the department back from the tipping point, UMass has helped out. The university said it is now contributing $80,000 per school year to fully fund ambulance services on busy nights.

"What we try to do is educate students and intervene when appropriate," said Ed Blaguszewski, a university spokesman.

Blaguszewski said the university does much more than fund extra medics. He said students take a survey when they enroll as freshmen, they have a series of classes for students who are charged in alcohol related offenses and they have begun a new campus-wide initiative for faculty and staff to look for possible warning signs.

"I think it's appropriate to understand that the great majority of students at UMass, as well as most other institutions, aren't binge drinkers," said Blaguszewski. "They're out there studying and partying within good norms."

The amount of the town's student-related emergency calls are even greater if you go back a few more years.

The totals have basically doubled since the 2006-2007 school year.

As the emergency calls go up, the number of firefighters does not.  Nelson said he could use 10 more firefighters to be fully-staffed.

Even then, he said they would be plenty busy.

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