Success stories demonstrate the many creative ways that event hosts are engaging their communities in underage drinking prevention
and the outcomes they are achieving.
Located in southwestern Montana, Anaconda is a rural community with fewer than 10,000 residents. Although the town is small, underage drinking rates in Anaconda are much higher than the state’s average. According to Heidi Nielsen, project director for Anaconda Community Intervention, Inc. (ACI), recent data showed that past 30-day alcohol use rates for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in Anaconda were 110 percent, 55 percent, and 5 percent higher, respectively, than Montana’s state averages.
Communities That Care (CTC) was founded in 2003 to reduce underage drinking in the rural farming community of Reno County, Kansas. Every year, local middle and high school students voluntarily take the Kansas Communities That Care Student Survey, which tracks teen use of harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The results of the survey are used to identify high-risk factors while guiding the best research-based interventions.
Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, hosted a Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking event through the school’s Outreach Club, which focuses on reducing underage drinking within the community. Although the median income of Greenwich is significantly higher than the national average, the town faces the same youth substance misuse challenges as the rest of the country.
In Windsor, CO, youth perceive underage drinking to be more prevalent than it actually is. Another local misperception is that alcohol is less harmful than research shows. Weld County officials, community-based organizations, and the school district are trying to set the record straight in a way that positively engages youth and their families.
To that end, Windsor RE 4 School District partnered with North Range Behavioral Health to host an on-campus Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking Prevention event. Called “Start the Conversation,” the event offered educators, administration, students, and their families a chance to attend a variety of prevention-related classes and learn about local initiatives at a resource fair.
Northern California's Butte County has roughly 90 public K-12 schools and is home to both Butte College and California State University, Chico. Many students who graduate from local high schools go on to attend college nearby, which has created what local officials call "the four-year rule." According to Vernon Spearman, of Butte County Department of Behavioral Health, this is when a junior or senior in high school knows a freshman in college who, in turn, has access to fellow college students who can legally buy alcohol. This, by default, gives the high school student a pipeline to alcohol—a main contributor to underage drinking.
The District of Columbia is organized into eight Wards, each with approximately 75,000 residents, and each with its own history, neighborhoods, and diverse populations. In Wards 1, 5, 7, and 8, the average age of onset for underage drinking is about 12 years old. In collaboration with the DC Department of Behavioral Health, Bridging Resources in Communities, Inc. (BRIC) leads the Ward 5 Drug-Free Coalition and runs the Ward 7 & 8 DC Prevention Center, which supports residents and educates them about alcohol and substance use.
The small, rural community of Amado, Arizona, is susceptible to risk factors that can lead to underage drinking and substance abuse. Proximity to the Mexican border and the community's vast areas of desert and mountain terrain make Amado vulnerable to drug trafficking. The town also sees high rates of poverty and unemployment due in part to low high school completion rates, a lack of job opportunities, and no public transportation.
A 2014 survey of Florida's Lee County found that 25 percent of high school students and more than 13 percent of middle school students reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. Founded in 1989 by a group of local leaders, the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida is working to reduce the prevalence of underage drinking. The coalition holds lunch-and-learn meetings, Red Ribbon Week celebrations, and prevention events throughout each year.
The University at Albany (UAlbany) is home to almost 13,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students from around the world. For more than a decade, UAlbany has experienced steady declines in student alcohol use and related problems. This trend is due in large part to the work of the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which is recognized as a national leader in the prevention of underage drinking.
Many residents, business owners, and law enforcement personnel in Chicago’s West Garfield Park have long been concerned about youth access to alcohol, because alcohol is one of the leading causes of death and violence in their community. And even though these community stakeholders report illegal alcohol sales, and the court system charges and fines the offenders, the activity continues.
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 September 2015, the Roseville City Council in California passed a Social Host Ordinance, which states that adults who allow drinking by underage guests in their home can face a fine—as much as $1,000 for a third offense. The Roseville Police Department and the Placer County Youth Commission (PCYC) both supported the ordinance, saying that it would help change social norms and provide needed education.
The 2014 Iowa Youth Survey revealed some disturbing realities about underage drinking in Emmet County:
Siouxland CARES has been hosting Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking since 2006. The volunteer-driven community coalition works to reduce alcohol and other drug abuse and related violence by all age groups, but focusing primarily on youth. The Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant that Siouxland CARES administered from 2000 to 2010 refined their goals and objectives with a focus on specific alcohol-related outcomes for their community.
Since the inception of Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking, Coalition Pathways has been an active participant in every cycle. Erie County has been working on underage drinking prevention for years, holding events for rural, urban, and suburban audiences and appealing to middle school, high school, and college students.
In Newton, NJ, the Center for Prevention and Counseling has hosted Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking every year since 2006. At their event on April 12, 2016, the Center celebrated 23 winners of an "Elect to be Alcohol-Free" contest for youth recognizing April as Alcohol Awareness Month. Winning entries ranged from posters to radio and video PSAs.
In 2015, students from John F. Kennedy Middle School, Enfield High School, and Enrico Fermi High School in Connecticut took an anonymous survey that addressed alcohol and other substances. It covered topics such as binge drinking and driving under the influence, marijuana, heroin, prescription drugs, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes.
When members of the Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change (JM4C) Coalition reviewed the local school district’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey data and a parent survey, they learned that parents needed and wanted guidance on communicating with their children about substance misuse. Brainstorming soon got underway for their next Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking event.
Local focus groups in Chickasaw County, Iowa, indicate that youth start drinking between 7th and 10th grade. “The Let’s Get To Work: Our County. Our Health. Our Future” event was designed to educate all segments of the community—primarily parents and students—about underage drinking and its consequences.