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Success Stories

These success stories illustrate the many creative and effective ways in which Town Hall Meetings are contributing to underage drinking prevention in communities nationwide.

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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.

Anchorage Town Hall Meeting Shapes Alaska Underage Drinking Policies

Leaders of the 49th state take the problem of underage drinking seriously. The Alaska Department of Health & Social Services, Division of Behavioral Health, Prevention and Early Intervention Program supports and coordinates community-based prevention services and publishes reports and recommendations on the issue.

Healthy Androscoggin: New Technology and Media Coverage Multiply Androscoggin County, Maine’s Town Hall Reach

Maine high school students who believe it is easy for them to get alcohol are three times more likely to drink, according to the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS). In Androscoggin County, the MIYHS reported that nearly 64 percent of high school students believe it would be “sort of easy” or “very easy” to obtain alcohol.

Making a Difference Through Underage Drinking Prevention

Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is a beautiful town on the Atlantic coast, with roughly 18,000 residents and a jurisdiction in which the square footage of water exceeds that of land. Although small in size, Portsmouth still faces a big challenge in reducing underage drinking.

SAMHSA SPF-SIG Grantee Hosts Underage Drinking Town Hall

In North Dakota, nearly one in three 12- to 20-year-olds reported binge drinking in the past 30 days in 2012–2013, a rate that is substantially higher than the national rate of about one in seven youth. Binge drinking is particularly prevalent among Native American youth. Native Americans comprise 5.4 percent of the state’s population, and 40 percent of Native American youth are under age 20. Limited data find that Native Americans are less likely to drink than whites, but are more likely to report both heavy and binge drinking if they do use alcohol.

Launching Nevada’s Underage Drinking Prevention Awareness Day

Although alcohol sales to anyone under age 21 are illegal, Nevada has an estimated 92,000 youth who drink underage. Furthermore, these youth drink more heavily than adults, averaging 3.9 drinks per day, compared with 1.7 drinks per day for those ages 21 and older.

Our City Is Our Campus: Alcohol in the Collegiate Environment

New York City’s colleges, universities, and prevention partners have been addressing underage drinking for more than 10 years. With past support from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Network Addressing Collegiate Alcohol Use, representatives have been meeting regularly to enhance evidence-based alcohol and other drug prevention strategies. Beginning in 2012, with support from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), the stakeholder groups expanded the dialogue around student alcohol use through large informational networking events and exploratory projects. A 2014 Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offered a perfect opportunity for stakeholders to continue this work

Data Drives Agenda on Underage Drinking Prevention

The Pennsylvania State Commission on Crime and Delinquency conducts the Pennsylvania Youth Survey biennially. Its 2013 survey found that alcohol is the number one drug of choice for 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in the state, with 12.8 percent of Clarion County students reporting binge drinking, a rate higher than the binge drinking rate for the state as a whole (9.7 percent). On behalf of Armstrong‒Indiana‒Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission (AICDAC), Inc., the Youth Council at the Union High School Union School District in Rimersburg coordinated an Underage Drinking Prevention Town Hall Meeting with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Carrie Bence, AICDAC Deputy Director, said that holding the Town Hall Meeting in April, which is Alcohol Awareness Month, was good timing because prom season and the end of the school year would soon follow. The number of teens who initiate alcohol use each month increases during June and July.

Youth Filmmakers Master the Fine Art of Prevention

In 2013, the cost to Oregon (PDF—346KB) of underage drinking was an estimated $589,700—or more than half a billion dollars. Much of this cost burden falls on the Portland metropolitan area, where nearly half of Oregon’s population (46 percent) lives.

“Talk. I Hear You” Is 2014 Youth Town Hall Message

Among all 50 states, Michigan (PDF—341KB) ranks 27th in the percentage of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers. The rate of underage drinking, however, varies widely by community and can have a far greater impact on families and communities already affected by poverty and unemployment.

Let’s Prevent Underage Drinking Together

Roger Williams University (RWU), located in Bristol, Rhode Island, is an independent, coeducational university with programs in the liberal arts and the professions. It enrolls 3,875 undergraduate students on a campus that sits on 43 acres overlooking Mount Hope Bay.

Time To Talk About Underage Drinking in the Nation’s Capital

According to the Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking, the percentage of youth in Washington, District of Columbia (DC), who binge drink is slightly above the national average. In 2013, past-month binge drinking was reported by 11,000 DC youth, or 17.3 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds. The national average is 15.8 percent. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.2 percent of DC high school students reported driving after drinking, compared with 10 percent of their peers nationally.

Sixth Town Hall Meeting Cements Student Collaboration

According to the 2012 Arizona Youth Survey, an increasing percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students believe that drinking alcohol every day presents a moderate to great risk, and they are significantly reducing their alcohol use. Underage drinking rates among students in Maricopa County were close to or lower than the statewide averages. The rate of binge drinking, for example, was 15.4 percent, compared with a statewide rate of 15.7 percent.

Youth Deliver Underage Drinking Wake-Up Call

“Let’s face it, a lot of people think of this as a party state,” says Charlette Fornea, Executive Director of ADAPT, Inc., a nonprofit organization providing substance abuse and mental health services to the Bogalusa-Washington Parish area of Louisiana. ADAPT is an acronym for All Deserve Advocacy, Prevention, & Treatment. Changing underage drinking norms for children and adolescents is an ADAPT, Inc. objective for this area.

Building Partnerships in the “Indian Capital of the Nation”

In 2012, Oklahoma ranked third among all states in the percentage of alcohol consumed by underage youth, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center. The Center’s report further stated “In 2012, underage customers consumed 14.4% of all alcohol sold in Oklahoma, totaling $172 million in sales (in 2013 dollars).” Despite a statewide social host law, 68.7 percent of 12th-grade students who used alcohol reported obtaining it from an adult they knew. Of these students, 17.4 percent got the alcohol from their own homes and with their parents’ consent.

Torrance Community Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force

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 Communities That Care

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 of Topeka

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.”

Child & Family Service/The Institute For Family Enrichment

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.

Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition

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 prevention strategies.

Rooks County Communities That Care Committee

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 Underage and High-Risk Drinking: A Solution-Based Town Hall Dialogue Morgantown, West Virginia

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).

Zebra Coalition® Town Hall Meeting on Substance Abuse Among LGBT+ Youth Orlando, Florida

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 environment.

Alcorn State University “Our Town, Our Health, Our Future” Lorman, Mississippi

Alcorn State University, located in southwestern Mississippi, was founded in 1871 as the nation’s first public historically black land-grant institution.

Ohio State University Party Smart to Reduce High-Risk Alcohol Use

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.

University of California-Santa Barbara

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.

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Conehatta, Mississippi

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.

"Be A Parent. Not a Peer." Targets Social Access in Harriman, Tennessee

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.

"Hope Dealer" Keynotes American Canyon, CA Youth-Led Town Hall

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.

Our Town. Our Health. Our Future. It's Your Turn to Speak Up. Washington and Clinton Counties, Illinois

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.

Our Town. Our Health. Our Youth. Our Future. Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, South Carolina

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.”

Educate | Empower | Mobilize: A Town Hall Meeting on Underage Drinking in Whatcom County, Washington

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.

Our Town. Our Health. Our Future. Maryville, Missouri

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.

Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse (NASA) Youth Summit '14: Greenfield, IN

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. 

New Jersey City University Town Hall Meeting on 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. 

Lead & Seed Changes the Underage Drinking Environment in Erie County, Pennsylvania

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.

Underage Drinking Prevention Tailgate Is Springboard to Success in Coffee County, Tennessee

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?

Reality Party Educates Adults About Underage Drinking in Kamiah, Idaho

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.

Educating Parents on Underage Drinking: A SNAP™ for Randolph, New Jersey, Town Hall

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.

2012 Town Hall Meeting Makes a Big “MOOV” to Success—Omak, Washington

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.

Town Hall Meetings Help Draw the Line Between Youth and Alcohol—Washington State

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.

Changing the Culture Reduces Underage Drinking—South Orange County, California

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.

Calling a Community to Action—Burlington County, New Jersey

Annual Town Hall Meetings urge community members to get involved in prevention, with measurable results.

From Unhealthy to Healthy Environments: A Durham, North Carolina Progress Report

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”)—Georgia Latino Town Halls

“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.

Underage Drinking Prevention Is Standing Tall in Texas

Town Hall Meetings help coalitions take strategic action to reduce underage drinking in their communities and across the state.

Changing the Underage Drinking Culture—La Crosse, WI

Town Hall Meetings build on efforts to reduce youth access to alcohol and advance coalition goals.

A Win-Win Situation—Flemington, NJ

A local coalition is rewarded with a significant increase in social host ordinances—and also awarded national acclaim.

Guam Town Hall Meetings—Changing Underage Drinking Laws and Social Norms

Urged on by youth, Guam’s legislators raise the minimum legal drinking age.

Culture Is Prevention—Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana

Tribal elders and community members use Town Hall Meetings to promote a strong social host ordinance.

Starting Older, Drinking Less—Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, Town Hall Meetings have helped to increase the age of first alcohol use and decrease lifetime underage drinking.

Town Hall Meeting Has Community Abuzz About Underage Drinking—West Hartford, CT

More attendees than expected turned  out to learn from youth about the actual challenges they face when deciding  about underage alcohol use.

For This Town Hall Meeting, Most of the Audience Stayed Home—Florida

Partnering with local public broadcast stations helped two coalitions reach a potential audience of a quarter million.

A Sea Change in Social Norms on the Island of Enchantment—Puerto Rico

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.

Town Halls Meetings Are Getting to Outcomes—California

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.

Iowa’s Coordinated Town Hall Meetings

In this state, input from all events help inform strategic statewide prevention planning.

Teens and Technology Drive Prevention Message Home in Eastchester, NY

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.

Awareness + Action = Progress in Pittsfield, MA

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.

From Tiny Acorns Mighty Oak Trees Grow—The Cobb County, Georgia, Alcohol Taskforce Experience

A Town Hall Meeting proved to be fertile ground for identifying effective ways to prevent adults from providing alcohol to youth.

Youth Not Napping on Underage Drinking Issue in Napa

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.