ONEONTA _ The impact of alcohol and drugs on developing brains will be the focus of a conference in April presented through a $25,000 state grant.

Community representatives will join student and campus leaders April 21 in Oneonta at a learning institute titled Making Healthy Choices Takes Brains: The Brain Science of Substance Abuse and Prescription Medication Misuse.''

The event will be held at the Hunt Union ballroom at the State University College at Oneonta.

The Leatherstocking Consortium on Campus Community Substance Abuse Prevention was chosen to receive a $25,000 grant from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The locally based group was among eight of 11 groups that successfully applied for the funding, said Julie Dostal, executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions.

Each college campus will select 15 students and 15 faculty or other college professionals to attend the conference, Dostal said, and each of the four communities _ Oneonta, Delhi, Cobleskill and Herkimer _ will pick 15 community leaders or representatives to participate.

Discouraging use of alcohol and drugs is becoming a message more scientifically than morally based as studies show the negative impact of substance use and abuse on the developing brain, Dostal said. Science is revealing that a human's brain continues to develop until age 25, she said.

``It is a matter of preserving your brain,'' Dostal said, ``and making good decisions about the kind of brain you're going to have for the rest of your life.''

The Leatherstocking Consortium is a coalition of colleges and communities in Delaware, Herkimer, Otsego and Schoharie counties. Schools included are SUCO, Hartwick College, SUNY Delhi, SUNY Cobleskill and Herkimer County Community College.

Through the consortium, professionals from the campus and the community work to change the environment that increases the chance young people will use alcohol and other drugs, according to a media release.

The daylong institute will also feature speakers Ken Winters, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, and Kimberly Caldeira, a social worker from the University of Maryland.

Nationally, misuse of prescription drugs is a growing issue, said Dale Capristo, student development associate at SUCO and, with Dostal, co-chairwoman of the consortium. The conference is an important opportunity for campus and community members to learn about issues and ways to address them, Capristo said.

During this learning institute, each campus group will have a student leadership conference. Students will participate in workshops and prepare to take information presented by the speakers to their campuses and peers.

Other resources, such as an e-resource directory for students who think they or a friend may have a problem with addiction, will be developed and distributed to the colleges.

The LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions is the lead agency for the project, and the council and SUCO are co-hosts for the learning institute.

``We're just thrilled to have these resources,'' Dostal said.

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