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Case Studies

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Savings lives through communications has been a passion for DSS principals for many years. The agency’s campaign targeting underage drinking not only won awards, but has hopefully prevented deaths and serious injury.

When Rhode Island was ranked one of the nation’s leading states for underage alcohol and drug use, policy makers, parents and educators realized action was needed. To combat the problem, Newport and Middletown, Rhode Island developed Substance Abuse Prevention Task Forces and the two communities shared a 3-year grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Task Forces hired DSS principals to develop an impactful public awareness and advertising campaign to curb teen drinking. Research led the agency and client to develop a campaign targeting those providing alcohol to minors. In most cases, this was done unwittingly by parents or older siblings who weren’t careful enough to monitor the access to alcohol available in their home. Knowing that underage drinking peaks during graduation, prom and summer vacation, DSS crafted its creative messages to zero in on these otherwise happy times of relaxation and celebration. The powerful messages caught the attention of the community, driving increased traffic to the campaign website and sparking much needed conversations about the important role of parents and older siblings in preventing underage access to alcohol.

The messages made their way onto posters, newspapers ads, bus shelters and movie theater advertising. While underage drinking will never be completely eliminated, creative campaigns can help curb abuse and save lives in the process.