These success stories illustrate the many creative and effective ways in which Town
Hall Meetings are contributing to underage drinking prevention in communities nationwide.
Select a heading to read the full story.
The Partnership for a Healthy Torrance County (PHTC) serves a frontier
county in central New Mexico that includes three school districts. The
Partnership, which recently completed 10 years as a Drug Free
Communities grantee, identifies local health priorities in The Torrance County Community Health Improvement Plan.
In the 2011–2014 plan, PHTC recommended substance abuse prevention as
the second-highest priority because multiple risk and health indicator
rates for the county were worse than those for the state or the nation.
Draper, Utah, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City, has more than
45,000 residents and is home to the main customer service centers for
Ebay, as well as the Utah State Prison. While underage drinking
prevalence is lower in Utah than in other states, a state survey
conducted every 2 years finds many children drinking in elementary
school. In 2013, about one out of four high-school seniors reported
binge drinking during the past 2 weeks.
Prevention and Recovery Services (PARS), in Topeka, Kansas, has
undergone several name changes since it was founded in 1965 as the
city’s affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism. Its focus,
however, has remained the same: addressing alcohol prevention,
treatment, and recovery support. For its 2014 Town Hall Meetings,
PARS delivered its underage drinking prevention messages through Reality Tour,
a national parent-and-child program listed in the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services’ (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based
Programs and Practices and available from Candle, Inc.,
a nonprofit organization. Reality Tour is designed to “increase
children’s negative attitudes toward alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and
other illicit drugs, as well as their perceived risk of harm from use
of these substances.”
Since 1899, Child & Family Service (CFS) has supported programs and
services to strengthen families and foster the healthy development of
children on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The Institute for Family
Enrichment (TIFFE) is a subsidiary of CFS and operates the Together We
CAN: Care, Aspire, Nurture project funded by the Hawaii Department of
Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division to promote prosocial youth
development activities. The project invites youth to participate in
service-learning activities that support drug-free lifestyles and
discourage experimentation with alcohol and other drugs. CFS/TIFFE
believes that Together We CAN prevention efforts must grow from an
understanding of the environment in which underage drinking occurs.
In 2012, the Grant County Community Health Council received a Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Partnerships
for Success II grant to focus on youth alcohol and prescription drug
abuse. The grant created the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition
(YSAPC), which uses evidence-based strategies to involve youth in
prevention programs and initiatives. A part of YSAPC’s scope of work is
to reach out to the community and gather the necessary qualitative data
to reinforce its direction and strategies. Most local organizations
and service providers lack youth perspective and input, an additional
challenge that YSAPC seeks to address. Weeks prior to the 2014 Town
Hall Meeting, YSAPC received a 4-year grant from New Mexico’s Office of
Substance Abuse Prevention to continue its focus on environmental
Stockton, Kansas, is a small town of fewer than 1,400 residents and the
county seat of Rooks County, which has a population of 5,000. Despite
its small size, the town and county have a large commitment to keeping
its young people healthy, safe, and free from alcohol and other drugs.
Every year, the Rooks County Communities That Care Committee hosts a
Town Hall Meeting on substance abuse prevention. Progress is being
made. For example, according to the Rooks County Community Report—based
on the Kansas Strategic Prevention Framework data—binge drinking by
students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 declined from a high of 17.84
percent in 2011 to 11.43 percent in 2014.
West Virginia University (WVU), with a student population of 29,466, has
a significant impact on the quality of life and economy of the small
city of Morgantown (population 30,293).
Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, the Zebra Coalition® is a network of
central Florida social service providers, government agencies, schools,
and colleges and universities that provide a full continuum of services
to at-risk lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and all (LGBT+) youth
and young adults. The coalition seeks to provide LGBT+ young people with
opportunities to grow up in a safe, healthy, and supportive
Alcorn State University, located in southwestern Mississippi, was
founded in 1871 as the nation’s first public historically black
The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Responsible Hospitality Initiatives educate and encourage commercial and private hosts to plan events in ways that reduce the physical, social, and legal risks associated with alcohol use. A key piece is the Party Smart initiative, which, among other activities, provides information to students about how they can be responsible party hosts and guests via flyers, literature drops, paid advertisements, a website, and workshops. Connie Boehm, Director of OSU’s Student Wellness Center, saw the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2014 Town Hall Meetings initiative as an opportunity to promote Party Smart behaviors and OSU resources for reducing high-risk alcohol use.
The University of California–Santa Barbara (UCSB), located on the Pacific Coast and about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, enrolls 21,685 students, of which about 3,000 are graduate students. The nearby community of Isla Vista acts as a residential quarter for students enrolled at UCSB and Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). Isla Vista has a population of 20,000 people, of whom about 13,000 are college students. A series of alcohol-related tragedies involving UCSB and SBCC students, coupled with media-reported extreme drinking, have increased concern about student alcohol use on both campuses. Most recently, the April 2014 Deltopia spring break event, where youthful revelers consumed alcoholic beverages openly, turned violent after a university police officer was struck in the head with a backpack containing large bottles of alcohol. A Town Hall Meeting was planned at UCSB by Jackie Kurta, Alcohol and Drug Program Director, and Debbie Fleming, Senior Associate Dean of Students, with logistical support from Syreeta Elie, Alcohol and Drug Program Operations Assistant, as an opportunity for a frank and solution-driven dialogue among community leaders.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) has been addressing substance abuse prevention for many years. As a Drug Free Communities grantee, MBCI established the Choctaw Prevention Planning Coalition in 2003 and began recruiting partners, an ongoing process as individuals come and go and additional partners are identified. The group uses a coalition model to deliver substance abuse prevention services to the 10,500 enrolled members of the Choctaw Tribe residing across rural east-central Mississippi. Half of that population consists of youth ages 18 and younger. Conehatta is a rural tribal community, with few activities for youth and limited capacity for enforcement of underage drinking prevention laws. It became the location for a 2014 Town Hall Meeting when local residents asked the coalition for prevention information to help them address the serious underage drinking problem in Conehatta.
The mission of the Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition (RCADC) is to reduce youth substance use; to educate and raise awareness of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug issues; to promote community involvement; and to strengthen community partnerships and prevention strategies in Roane County. In 2004, 26.4 percent of youth in Roane County reported using alcohol within the past 30 days. This number dropped to 11.3 percent in 2011. According to Sarah Harrison, the coalition’s Executive Director, the need for a 2014 underage drinking prevention Town Hall Meeting emerged from new data showing a resurgence of alcohol use among area teens. For example, past-month drinking by local high school seniors rose to 16.1 percent in 2013, following several years of declines. Focus groups revealed that many youth have been getting their alcohol from adults, sometimes from grownups in their own families.
American Canyon High School is newly opened in Napa County, California. Data from the California Healthy Kids Survey point to significant levels of underage alcohol use, student binge drinking, and associated problems in the county. Complicating parental and community efforts to protect American Canyon youth from alcohol and other substance abuse problems is the history of gun-related violence, drinking, and drug use in neighboring Vallejo, a more inner-city environment with severe economic problems. In addition, an estimated 70 percent of employed American Canyon residents commute to either the Sacramento or the San Francisco area, leaving many children unsupervised until their parents’ arrival home. At present, Friday Night Live Partnership (FNL) is the lead substance abuse prevention group in American Canyon and has identified a need to modify its strategy for engaging with parents about underage alcohol use and other youth substance abuse.
Staff of the 1-year-old Communities That Care (CTC) Coalition, serving rural Washington and Clinton Counties in southern Illinois, observed that alcohol use appeared to be ingrained in the local culture. They considered this to be one reason why many area residents have not treated underage drinking as a serious problem. Anecdotal evidence suggested that parents look the other way and think that youth alcohol use is relatively unimportant when compared with reported increases in the use of drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine, by teens. Yet, according to the Illinois Youth Survey, rates of both alcohol use and binge drinking among high school students are higher here than for the United States as a whole, with some Illinois youth beginning to drink as early as ages 10 and 11, thus greatly increasing their risks for serious problems. The CTC Coalition organized two Town Hall Meetings that were intended to begin correcting such misperceptions and build community support for underage drinking prevention.
The LowCountry Alliance for Healthy Youth (LCAHY) was established in February 2012 in response to numerous alcohol-related tragedies and other substance abuse problems involving youth in the Hilton Head Island area of South Carolina. The fledgling organization, serving the communities of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, South Carolina, is committed to coordinating efforts of multiple community sectors in order to “develop a comprehensive solution to preventing and reducing youth substance use/abuse and related risk behaviors by: (1) identifying the causes/conditions that put our youth at risk and (2) identifying and implementing protective factors/strategies that will prevent our youth from engaging in substance use/abuse and related risk behaviors.”
After the new Washington State law privatizing the sale of spirits went into effect in January 2014, the number of spirits retailers statewide increased from 330 to 1,414. At the same time, the Campus Community Coalition in Bellingham, home of Western Washington University and three other colleges, was concerned that all the attention on the recent legalization of marijuana was overshadowing the implications of the fourfold increase in the community’s access to liquor. The dramatic increase in liquor outlets prompted the coalition to partner with the Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom Prevention Coalition, and Western Washington University’s Prevention and Wellness Services to sponsor a Town Hall Meeting for a community conversation on underage drinking and the impacts of liquor privatization in Whatcom County.
Maryville Partners in Prevention (MVPIP) is a prevention coalition in Maryville, Missouri, working to create a healthy culture and environment on campus and in the community and to encourage responsible decision-making by college students. The coalition participates in an effort on the part of Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) and local law enforcement to pursue education and outreach strategies that discourage reckless drinking and illegal consumption of alcohol by minors. MVPIP, formerly known as the Substance Abuse Task Force, is made up largely of stakeholders in student success from Northwest and the Maryville Community. The new title emphasizes the group’s alliance with Missouri’s Partners in Prevention, a coalition of 21 public and private college and university campuses statewide.
This event brought together more than 100 students, who offered their own solutions to underage drinking. Among their suggestions were the need for increased parental supervision, more weekend police patrols, curfews, and harsher punishments. As followup, student input will inform the review of NASA’s logic model to address underage drinking.
Despite 6 inches of rain, dozens of community members turned out for a discussion about solutions to underage drinking, including a new College Alcohol Task Force.
The Lead & Seed program in Erie County, funded by the Erie County
Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs, sees Town Hall Meetings as
springboards to action against underage alcohol consumption. After each
Town Hall Meeting, Lead & Seed’s youth leaders have created
strategic planning logic models that they use as a tool to promote
advocacy; action; and changes to their physical, legal, economic, and
sociocultural environment. The compelling issues and suggestions that
emerge from their Town Hall Meetings become key talking points driving
their planning for followup activities.
Question: What do you get if you put three mayors, two police chiefs, one sheriff, and one district attorney, including some who have not always seen eye-to-eye, in the same 2013 Town Hall Meeting roundtable in Manchester, Tennessee?
Most parents would be troubled to discover empty beer cans littering their front yard and to find unconscious teens sprawled on their living room floor.
In 2008, 110 Randolph high school students were arrested after renting a “party bus” for a trip to Vermont with kegs of beer, bottles of vodka, and other drugs onboard; of the 110 students, 62 were arrested on underage drinking charges. Prevention is Key, a community-focused nonprofit organization, hosted the “What Every Parent Needs to Know About Underage Drinking” Town Hall Meeting in Randolph on April 18, 2012. The event addressed the problem of underage drinking and the role of parents in stopping it from a developmental perspective.
Omak, Washington, has fewer than 5,000 residents, yet a 2012 underage drinking prevention Town Hall Meeting attracted nearly 600 participants—or about 1 out of 8 community members. Careful planning, youth engagement, and creative audience inducements pulled in the crowd.
According to Washington State’s Healthy Youth Survey, both current and binge drinking by 8th- and 12th-grade students have declined significantly since 2004. “We are encouraged by this progress,” says Washington’s National Prevention Network member, Michael Langer. “Town Hall Meetings are one of several forces contributing to these positive trends.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence—Orange County (NCADD-OC), in partnership with the South Orange County Coalition (SOCC), is using Town Hall Meetings…as part of a multifaceted approach to promote social and legislative changes that can reduce underage drinking problems.
Annual Town Hall Meetings urge community members to get involved in prevention, with measurable results.
Durham Together for Resilient Youth (T.R.Y.) has conducted underage drinking prevention Town Hall Meetings annually since 2006, when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) first announced the nationwide initiative.
“Todo tiene su comienzo” (“Everything has a beginning”) was selected as the theme for the 2012 series of Town Hall Meetings aimed at addressing underage drinking problems among Georgia’s growing Latino population.
Town Hall Meetings help coalitions take strategic action to reduce underage drinking in their communities and across the state.
Town Hall Meetings build on efforts to reduce youth access to alcohol and advance coalition goals.
A local coalition is rewarded with a significant increase in social host ordinances—and also awarded national acclaim.
Urged on by youth, Guam’s legislators raise the minimum legal drinking age.
Tribal elders and community members use Town Hall Meetings to promote a strong social host ordinance.
In Massachusetts, Town Hall Meetings have helped to increase the age of first alcohol use and decrease lifetime underage drinking.
More attendees than expected turned out to learn from youth about the
actual challenges they face when deciding about underage alcohol use.
Partnering with local public broadcast stations helped two coalitions reach a potential audience of a quarter million.
When the legal drinking age is 18, a first-ever community gathering on underage drinking prevention may represent a sea change in cultural norms for Puerto Rico.
An assessment of 2010 Town Hall Meetings statewide generated many
lessons learned as well as evidence that these events can lead to
community engagement in environmental prevention.
In this state, input from all events help inform strategic statewide prevention planning.
Eastchester Communities That Care (ECTC) and members of M-Powered, ECTC’s youth division, used skits and live input from smartphones to drive home the message that it’s not just someone else’s teenager who may become a traffic fatality when alcohol and driving collide.
A small town with a big reason to prevent underage drinking is seeing
results from environmental prevention and the use of Town Hall Meetings
to spread the prevention message.
A Town Hall Meeting proved to be fertile ground for identifying
effective ways to prevent adults from providing alcohol to youth.
Youth-driven and youth-led Town Hall Meetings conducted by California Friday Night Live (FNL) chapters have been important to the success of many community-based initiatives to reduce underage drinking.