In Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach in California—what’s known as the Beach Cities community—underage drinking has recently become a problem that people are paying attention to. The community’s high rates of underage drinking compared to the rest of the state are attributed to environmental factors such as affluence, stress, and social norms. Another factor—the high number of alcohol-licensed retailers in the area—may be why youths don’t have difficulty accessing alcohol.
In fact, 100 percent of Hermosa Beach and 67 percent of Manhattan Beach youth surveyed by Behavioral Health Services, Inc. (BHS) in 2012 reported that alcohol was “somewhat easy” or “very easy” to get.
This is part of the reason that more than 80 parents attended the recent Communities Talk: Town Hall Meeting to Prevent Underage Drinking—Safety, Stress, and Social Media: Educating Parents and Protecting Teens. The event was organized by BHS/National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) as the lead prevention agency for the Beach Cities Prevention Community Council (PCC).
How They Did It
BHS/NCADD included the following components in their program to get the attention of parents:
- Show parents the youth perspective.
The event started with the showing of a short film created by BHS/NCADD and the PCC called "Inside the Party," which depicted the dangers of parents allowing teens to have an unsupervised house party. The simulated teen party was designed to enlighten parents about the myths versus realities of what occurs at many house parties.
- Discuss solutions with trusted community leaders.
Hermosa Beach Mayor Carolyn Petty and a panel of public health and law enforcement experts discussed teen access to alcohol at house parties and the associated dangers to children, such as car accidents, sexual assaults, and the potential for addiction. An important focus was on raising awareness and educating parents about the recent enactment of a Social Host Ordinance in the City of Hermosa Beach that enables law enforcement to impose a civil fine of $2,500 for any adult who allows underage drinking in their home.
- Highlight other related teen issues.
It was important to frame teen alcohol access with other young adult issues such as cyberbullying and social media challenges to make parents more willing to attend the Communities Talk event. Among other community leaders, Hermosa Beach Chief of Police Sharon Papa shared safety tips to help parents protect their teens:
- Taking the car keys away is not enough to ensure a child's safety.
- Be willing to call other parents who are hosting a party to make sure that alcohol will not be served.
- Teens want boundaries and rules to help them cope with peer pressure.
“We were pleased that our event was well attended by parents and community leaders who provided positive feedback and support for the recently passed Social Host Ordinance,” said Raunda Frank, BHS/NCADD Prevention Coordinator. “In addition, our agency continues to promote the event and short film through Facebook and YouTube, and through local news outlets such as The Beach Reporter.
“We’re pretty excited that we have a city council in Hermosa that’s responsive to what’s going on with the kids,” said Frank. “I think that these issues are really gaining some traction. Each year we’re getting more parents that are attending.”
A Community in Action
BHS/NCADD and the PCC continue to address underage drinking in the Beach Cities community through ongoing prevention programs and activities. In December 2016, the PCC held another Communities Talk event called "Parent Chat" with a second stipend from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). BHS/NCADD is garnering community support for the passage of Social Host Ordinances in nearby cities. The agency also offers Responsible Beverage Service training to Beach Cities restaurant and bar owners and free alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug awareness presentations to schools, community groups, parents, and civic organizations. In March 2017, BHS/NCADD presented at the 2017 NCADD National Conference of Affiliates and was awarded the 2017 NCADD Prevention and Education Meritorious Award for its prevention programs.