Underage Drinking Prevention Is Standing Tall in Texas
Since 2006, Texans Standing Tall, in partnership with local coalitions, has organized Town Hall Meetings in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lufkin, Midland, San Antonio, and many other cities. These meetings, referred to as Regional Policy Forums, help mobilize local and state-level participants to reduce underage drinking in a coordinated and strategic way. At each forum, participants learn about youth alcohol use and substance abuse at state and local levels as well as evidence-based environmental prevention strategies to tackle the problem.
Texans Standing Tall has been evaluating these forums over time to assess impact, knowledge transfer, participant demographics, and perceptions and attitudes related to alcohol and other drug use in the community. In 2008, Texans Standing Tall began a rigorous evaluation of the forums using an online survey through a Service to Science evaluation enhancement grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Results from the 2008 survey show that forums not only increased knowledge among participants but also led to increased civic engagement in addressing underage drinking.
In 2010, Texans Standing Tall expanded its survey methodology to include focus group discussions to examine changes in knowledge on specific topics. According to the focus groups, the forums effectively increased community involvement and interest in the coalitions. Participants also said that the forums, particularly the hands-on training at the forums, provided them with skills they can use at both the state and the local levels to create change. Results from the online survey support the focus groups’ finding that increased knowledge is leading to increased action. Specifically, the survey found that respondents reported taking the following steps toward implementing community action:
- 72.9 percent of respondents reported addressing underage drinking at a coalition meeting;
- 75.2 percent of respondents reported educating and disseminating information about environmental strategies;
- 70.8 percent of respondents reported increasing community participation and involvement; and
- 54.7 percent of respondents reported talking to decisionmakers about policy or governance.
In 2012, Texans Standing Tall began hosting 22 Advanced Regional Forums, which will continue into 2013. The goal of these forums is to advance specific data-driven and evidence-based strategies in communities seeking to reduce underage drinking through alcohol excise taxes and holding social hosts accountable for allowing underage drinking parties.
Since Texans Standing Tall's first forum in 2006, Texas has seen a steady decrease in youth alcohol use. In 2006, 66 percent of Texas secondary school students surveyed reported that they had used alcohol at some point in their lives. This number has decreased in each subsequent survey: 63 percent in 2008, 62 percent in 2010, and 57.5 percent in 2012, according to the biennial Texas School Survey of Substance Use Among Students: Grades 7–12 from each of the respective years.
Serving as the statewide coalition for Texas since 1997, Texans Standing Tall partners with parents, teachers, institutes of higher learning, law enforcement, decisionmakers, faith communities, state and federal agencies, and scores of community coalitions and organizations across the state to create healthier and safer communities by making alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs irrelevant in the lives of youth. Town Hall Meetings have been and will remain a critical element of coalition success in reducing underage drinking in Texas. As a result of these events, Texas communities have held controlled party dispersal trainings and engaged in providing comments at the federal and state levels on their concerns about alcoholic energy drinks and the labeling of alcopops, which resulted in a request by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for the voluntary removal of caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks from store shelves. Community members provided input to the TABC stakeholder meetings on TABC Code changes that resulted in positive impacts to protect the health and safety of Texas’s youth. Texans Standing Tall is funded through SAMHSA’s Drug-Free Communities and Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act programs as well as other federal, state, and private sources.