Partnership to host town meeting on underage drinking
The Pledge for Life Partnership will be among hundreds of communities nationwide hosting town hall meetings this month to alert communities to the new research on the dangers of underage drinking and to discuss actions to stop it.
A town hall meeting for residents of Kankakee and Iroquois counties will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 in the auditorium at Kankakee Community College.
Registration and refreshments will be served from 5 to 5:30 p.m. in the Cavalier Room. The town hall meeting will begin and 5:30 p.m. with the viewing of “Teenage Drinking - It’s Not Like You Remember” and “Teenage Drinking & Corporate Profits” -- two videos produced by the Partnership as a part of its community education initiative entitled, “Don’t Look the Other Way – Start Talking Now.” Break out sessions will follow.
Attendance is free and participants who pre-register by March 21 will receive a “Don’t Look the Other Way – Start Talking Now” toolkit, which includes a DVD containing the new videos.
Underage drinking costs the nation nearly $53 billion each year, according the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Institute of Medicine. Statistics have determined that alcohol is involved in more than half of all teenage deaths and that underage drinking leads to traffic accidents, violence, suicides, sexual assaults, unwanted pregnancies and school failure. In addition, youth who start drinking in early adolescence are at increased risk for sustaining brain damage and of becoming alcoholics.
“It is a serious and persistent problem across America and Kankakee and Iroquois counties are no exceptions,” stressed Debra Baron, director of the Pledge for Life Partnership. The Partnership has worked with the Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Office of Education for 16 years in Kankakee County and for eight years in Iroquois County to offer the school-based Life Education Center (LEC) programs to K-12th grade students. Responses from the first groups of junior high school students to complete the LEC programs through the eighth grade have shown promising results, but, in order for school-based programs to be effective, students must receive the same ‘no use’ message from their parents, Baron warned. “Research has taught us that parents have the greatest influence over their teen’s decision to drink, yet it appears too few are taking advantage of their influence and are looking the other way.”
Survey responses from 443 area high school seniors indicate that local alcohol use by high school students is similar to or higher than the national average for every indicator examined. According to the national PRIDE Survey conducted last spring by the Partnership, 41-55 percent of area 12th grade students reported drinking alcohol in the past month; 72-81 percent reported drinking alcohol in the past year; 46-61 percent reported consuming 5 or more drinks within a few hours on at least one occasion; and 32-49 percent reported having driven a car after or while drinking alcohol.
“We know from a community readiness survey conducted last year, adults in Kankakee and Iroquois counties are opposed to underage drinking and are ready to address the problem. The town hall meeting will provide us with the opportunity to start talking about it now. “
The Town Hall Meetings to Address Underage Drinking are part of a national effort to raise community awareness about the consequences of underage drinking and are being co-sponsored by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking, which consists of the Administration for Children and Families, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Trade Commission, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Office of the Surgeon General, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Office of National Drug Control Policy.