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Campaign aims to curb statewide problem of teen drinking

Teen binge drinking across the state is showing a downward trend, according to?the latest?“Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.”

Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for teen binge drinking and many communities across Colorado have been working together to help change this alarming national statistic.

As a strategy to address this widespread problem even further, a new statewide effort has been launched called “Speak Now” to get parents to talk to their teens about underage drinking. The campaign, created by the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health, provides parents with the resources they need to start a conversation with their teen and discuss the issue of teen alcohol consumption before unpleasant behaviors develop.

According to?data collected through the 2011?Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, administered to high school students throughout the state, 65 percent of Colorado’s high school students reported they had consumed alcohol at some point in their lives. Additionally, 36 percent percent reported they had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days.

“The latest Healthy Kids Colorado Survey also shows alcohol is the drug of choice among youth in Colorado and they are experiencing the consequences of drinking too much at an early age,” said Stan Paprocki, director of prevention and early intervention for the?Colorado Division of Behavioral Health. “As a result, it’s a leading health problem for youth in our state. The most influential role models are parents and guardians of youth, and our goal is to get them to have a lot of meaningful conversations with their teen about alcohol to prevent the harmful effects.”

The Speak Now campaign encourages parents through its campaign website (www.speaknowcolorado.org) to have prompt and continued conversations with their kids about the dangers of teen drinking. The interactive website helps parents start a conversation by sending a personal text to their teen directly from the site, and also provides a “how to start a conversation” video that includes testimonials from other Colorado parents and local law enforcement. Downloadable resources address the latest Colorado underage drinking laws, statewide statistics and effective ways to speak about alcohol and drugs. The site also links to community resources throughout Colorado. Much of the website’s content is also available in Spanish at www.hableahoracolorado.org.

“Additional data shows a person who starts drinking in their teen years is four times more likely to become an alcoholic, than someone who doesn’t drink until the legal age of 21,” stated Sharon Liu, project manager at the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health. “Consuming alcohol at a young age has long lasting effects, including possible brain damage, and that is why we believe it’s important to pay attention to the trending alcohol statistics in our state.”

The statewide Speak Now campaign will feature messages illustrating some of the many common opportunities that exist for parents to bring up the subject of alcohol with their teens. Advertising and campaign messages will be delivered during three specific periods each year, including prom season, summer and back-to-school.?

The Speak Now campaign supports Gov. Hickenlooper’s strategy for “Winnable Battles” and will play a vital role in the governor’s battle to provide quality treatment for mental health and substance abuse. Helping parents discuss the dangers of teen binge drinking with their kids, Speak Now will help prevent substance abuse among teens and improve the health, safety and quality of life for all Coloradans.

The Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health administers the Speak Now campaign, which received federal funding for the five-year effort from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). The grant is referred to as the Colorado Prevention Partnership for Success (CPPS) initiative.

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