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Coalition to host town hall meeting on underage drinking

The Promoting Prevention Coalition will host a town hall meeting on underage drinking from 7-8 p.m. Monday, May 3, at the Pagosa Springs Youth Center.

Parents, students and community members interested in hearing about the concerns, data and possible effects of underage drinking on our youth are invited for a dessert and dialogue on what is happening nationwide and here in Archuleta County.

Anna Royer, school community prevention coordinator, Joanne Irons, director of the Promoting Prevention Coalition, Lon Hoffmann and Carol Otis, AmeriCorps volunteers who are community prevention organizers, will lead the panel discussion surrounding the Stop Underage Drinking national campaign.

Different agencies that are partners with Promoting Prevention Coalition will be on hand or have materials for parents.

We received this recent press release from SAMHSA and the Ad Council outlining their stop underage drinking campaign.

“More than a quarter of youth aged 12-20 (27.6 percent) drank alcohol in the past month, according to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study shows that the underage drinking rates were as high as 40 percent in some states such as North Dakota and Vermont.

“In a major effort to combat the epidemic of underage drinking, SAMHSA and the Ad Council today launched a new series of national public service advertisements to encourage parents to talk to their children about drinking alcohol at an early age. The campaign and study are being released in conjunction with Alcohol Awareness Month (April) and as part of the Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking.” The PSAs are being distributed to media outlets throughout the country and will also be available online at the campaign’s online fulfillment.

“Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s youth. Alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death among 12- to 20-year-olds (unintentional injury, homicide and suicide). And research shows that those who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to have alcohol problems as adults than those who start drinking at age 21 or older.”

The study also reveals that nationwide, approximately 8.6 percent of past-month drinkers aged 12-20 purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank. The rates were among the highest in Louisiana and the District of Columbia (18.8 percent) and among the lowest in Alaska (3.1 percent) and New Mexico (3.7 percent).

“Prevention is the number one priority of SAMHSA, and reducing underage drinking is a key part of that effort. Underage drinking is a national crisis putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk as well as the futures of many of our youth,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “The national educational campaign SAMHSA is undertaking with the Ad Council aims at bringing to bear the most effective weapon against underage drinking — conversations between parents and their children.”

Created by ad agency Deutsch Inc. through the Ad Council, new PSAs aim to reach parents of children ages 11-15, with an emphasis on parents of middle school children who have not yet started drinking. The television, radio, magazine, newspaper and Internet ads are designed to reduce and delay the onset of underage drinking by increasing communication between parents and youth. The ads encourage parents to talk early, talk often and get others involved.

“Despite its prevalence and serious consequences, many parents underestimate the extent to which their children use alcohol and even consider it inevitable,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of The Advertising Council. “These new compelling ads and interactive components will continue to build on our efforts to create a greater sense of urgency for parents and encourage them to talk to their children early and often about the dangers of alcohol.”

The PSA campaign includes resources for parents that illustrate the short and long-term consequences of underage drinking and for tips on talking with their kids about alcohol. The site features an action plan that parents can personalize for their children to help start the conversation and sharable resources to send to family members, peers, and other adult influencers on their child’s decision to drink. In an effort to further the reach of the campaign to parents online, a social media program will also kick off this week, in cooperation with Nickelodeon’s Parents Connect (www.parentsconnect.com).

“The statistics show that in large and growing numbers, our underage kids, yours and mine, real kids in the real world are drinking,” said Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch NY, a subsidiary of Deutsch, Inc., and Ad Council creative review committee member. “Our mission is to get parents to consider that it could be their kid, and encourage open, ongoing dialogues. We are proud to be part of this important messaging to help raise awareness, and influence behavior to help prevent underage drinking.”

Please join us for this informative hour at the Pagosa Springs Youth Center. For more information, call the Pagosa Springs Youth Center at 264-5030.