Friday, September 29, 2023

Underage Drinking: Had Enough?

By Christine Cote

DIAS CREEK – Alcohol kills more teenagers than illegal drugs.
That statistic and the fact that alcohol is more accessible and is being tried by youngsters who are not even 10 have prompted a nationwide campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.
On March 30, the second of two countywide meetings sponsored by the Healthy Community Coalition was held here in the meeting oom of the county Department of Mosquito Control.
About 12 people were in attendance. After a 15-minute video “This Place” was shown, a panel discussion followed.
Diana Stover, from Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital, county Undersheriff Jack Reemmer, and Bill Liddell, student assistance counselor, were the panel members.
The video was a powerful look at the faces of children and teenagers who admitted to drinking and in some cases gave details of the negative impact it had on their young lives.
One 17-year-old explained how drinking lead him to fighting and that he had already been arrested three times.
One young lady talked about how drinking made her the life of the party but that she was also taken advantage of by the boys she was partying with.
It’s not just weekend drinking parties that are the problem, since ninth graders are now adding rum to cokes they are drinking in school.
One of the cultural changes adding to this problem is the abundance of advertising by the industry and the community and social events that are sponsored by beer companies, which place huge signs depicting their name and product at such events.
This was aptly depicted in the film.
The video’s narrator explained that this user-friendly environment may have “crept up on us adults, but for kids it’s just there. From what they see it is casual, innocent and expected.”
It was a call to arms to the community for people who are ready to say they’ve had enough of advertising directed toward youth, underage sales, and liquor stores cropping up in their neighborhoods.
Tacoma, Wash. was given as an example where residents and business owners addressed the problem and were successful in making inroads to offset these trends.
Stover spoke about what the hospital sees resulting from alcohol use, including statistics of health problems from long-term use.
“During summer every Saturday night when bars close, we’re going to receive patients who are intoxicated,” or those who were involved in fighting and accidents due to drinking she said.
“Many are underage,” Stover said. “They also can be difficult to manage and are foul-mouthed.”
 The hospital also sees patients who have long-term problems and want to stop but placement in programs may be difficult due to no insurance or lack of available spaces.
Liddell spoke of his experiences counseling students in Upper Township and now at the alternative high school.
He said he can remember when he was growing up and, for a junior or senior in high school, having a first drink was right of passage.
“We’ve lowered our moral standards with everything,” he said, “movies, books, television.” With adult activity in entertainment geared to the 11 to 13 age group, he said, we see youngsters that age starting to drink.
It’s the summer between seventh and eighth grade that “seems to be the high point,” he said, with students in that group vowing “we’re going to get trashed.”
It leads to petty crime like breaking into cars for change. The worse thing for someone in his position, said Liddell, is getting that phone call about a student or former student who has died in an alcohol related accident.
Referring to the video, Liddell said it puts the responsibility “on us, where it belongs.” He has heard stories from students about the violence in their homes when parents drink.
Reemmer gave the law enforcement prospective and said that 75 to 85 per cent of those in jail are there directly or indirectly because of substance abuse.
While enforcing the law is important to combat the problem, he said it must also be coordinated with mental and heath care programs.
Programs like We Check for 21 and Cops In Shops which help businesses prevent sales to minors are needed,  but youngsters obtain more alcohol through home by taking it or from older brothers and sisters that supply it.
He said parent sponsored parties also add to the problem.
That issue has prompted another campaign “Parents who host, lose the most,” which will be funded here locally this summer, according to Temerity Ennis of Cape Assist, which has received federal and state funding to host these underage drinking programs along with Healthy Community Coalition.
The first county meeting at the Historic Courthouse in Court House March 27 was attended by over about 15 residents, according to Lynne Krukosky, executive director of Cape Assist
Town meetings will be conducted during this month as part of this campaign, with one held Monday night at Wildwood Catholic High School and one planned for tomorrow in Upper Township. The agencies are working through local municipal alliances to set up these meetings.
Contact Cote at (609) 886-8600 Ext 31 or:

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