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“Holding young people solely responsible for underage drinking is like holding fish responsible for dying in a polluted stream.” That’s a quote from (faceproject.org), and shared with the group that came together to discuss the issue of underage drinking.
“According to a 2008 Missouri Student Survey, the average age of first use for drinks poured specifically for the child is 12.39 years old. That’s sixth grade,” said Theresa Rice, prevention specialist and Project Director of Ray County Coalition.
The survey also revealed 15 percent of middle school students and 34 percent of high school students reported 30 day use of alcohol in Ray County, up from 11 percent reported in 2006.
When asked how easy it is for a minor to get alcohol, 30 percent of middle schoolers and 58 percent of high schoolers stated it was easy or very easy to get alcohol.
“All too often, I hear ‘they’re going to drink anyway.’ If we continue to lower the bar of our expectations, we can fully expect youth to meet those low standards,” said Rice. “It’s time to raise the bar for our youth, and hold adults accountable for their role in contributing to underage drinking.”
Rice went on to say, “It’s time to clean up our streams, and send a unified message that underage drinking is Not O.K. Often we’re asked how do we change the attitude of our young people? I’m convinced that until we change the attitude of the adults, we will have NO impact on our youth. Our goal is to work together to send a clear message that it’s NOT o.k. to provide alcohol to minors.”
After the introduction, the group was separated into various segments – such as clergy (two present), elected officials (one present), business leaders (two present), media (two present), parents/grandparents (eight present), youth (six present), youth serving organizations, law enforcement (three present), educators/coaches (one present), heathcare/mental health services/family services (two present), and civic leaders.
Each group was to discuss what they’re doing now to discourage underage drinking, what their current resources are, what they need to expand or enhance what they’re doing, and additional changes that target the middle school students to curtail/discourage underage drinking.
After approximately 45 minutes of collaboration, each group presented their findings to the entire group. The list will be combined and a copy handed out at the next Ray County Coalition meeting at noon, Thursday, April 9, at Richmond Bowl.
“For each year that we can delay the onset of first use after age 15, the risk for alcohol dependency decreases by 14 percent. By age 21, we reduce that risk by between 70 and 80 percent,” said Rice.