The 2014 Iowa Youth Survey revealed some disturbing realities about underage drinking in Emmet County:
- 31 percent of Emmet County 11th grade students reported using alcohol (vs. the state average of 23 percent).
- Only 23 percent of 11th grade students in Emmet County reported it would be wrong if their friends were to drink (vs. the state average of 34 percent).
- Youth reported a perceived availability of alcohol as 82 percent vs. the state average of 64 percent.
How They Did It
Jody Monroe, Advanced Certified Prevention Specialist at MOCSY, attributes the following elements to the success of the interactive Communities Talk meeting.
- Engaging the community.
The sheriff's department, city police, youth, parents, and faith-based organizations and others came together to plan the meeting and discuss their perspectives on the dangers of underage alcohol use. MOCSY also created four "whiteboard" videos to illustrate underage drinking data that showed the number of fatalities, DUIs, and underage youth who drink and drive.
- Promoting through partners.
Given the small size of the community, MOCSY felt that the meeting would gain more traction if they tag-teamed with other organizations, including the Regional Wellness Center, Emmet County Public Health, and the City of Estherville Police Department. They also promoted the meeting at schools, in tandem with other events, with an event flyer, and through active outreach via Facebook and e-mail.
- Being prepared.
Monroe highlighted the importance of having data in place and available to explain to the audience. Being ready for questions about why taking action is important and what people can do to get involved is crucial, as well as having activities during the meeting for the audience to participate in.
In addition to raising awareness and discussing underage drinking prevention strategies, one of the whiteboard videos shown at the Communities Talk meeting focused on educating the community about the Social Host Law passed in Iowa in 2014, which was implemented to reduce underage drinking at parties and holds individuals hosting the parties responsible. The video explained what MOCSY is doing about the community's underage drinking problem and showed how community members can get involved in prevention.
The whiteboard videos continue to live on after MOSCY's Communities Talk meeting on their Facebook page. "Community members can now share them online and watch them repeatedly," said Monroe. "I'm glad our Communities Talk meeting has a 'legacy' of sorts through this product."
A Community in Action
Currently, Emmet County has five strategies that it is working to implement:
- Assessing and intervening with underage drinking at the community college level.
- Implementing enforcement strategies and "safety" checkpoints (sobriety checkpoints are not allowed in Iowa).
- Implementing a media campaign intended to reach 13- to 16-year-olds.
- Working to create stricter social host policies across the county.
- Raising awareness about strengthening and enforcing more underage drinking and substance misuse policies for schools throughout the county's two school districts, including increasing community involvement among athletes and others involved in extracurricular activities with a good conduct policy, and engaging community members in the process of reviewing the good conduct policy.