Underage Drinking Ills Targeted

May 12, 2010

BOUNTIFUL — Have you seen the “Mother Thumbs” ad on TV, ending with “Yes. They’re Opposable. They oppose underage drinking.”

That campaign, and more importantly its message, took center stage, last week, at a Bountiful Town Hall meeting targeting ways to combat underage drinking.

It was sponsored by the Davis Helps Coalition in partnership with the statewide parentsempowered.org program. The statewide program offers lots of ways for parents and others to get involved in fighting underage drinking.

“We had very good feedback,” said Bountiful Police Chief Tom Ross who spoke at the gathering. “People were very interested in the topic of underage drinking and things we are doing as a community to try and address that.

“If you look at the percentages, we (Bountiful) don’t have an alarming problem compared to other communities,” he said.

“But the consensus that I share as well is that it’s hard to address after it’s become a problem. Just the fact we have several hundred students that throughout their junior and senior years consume alcohol, whether experimental or on a regular basis, is concerning enough,” the chief said.

He said his biggest motivation for involvement is “how much crime is tied to underage alcohol consumption. Whether it’s the alcohol consumption or drugs, which is a gateway to other criminal activity. There are sexual assaults that happen to our kids, whether it’s the perpetrator or the victim,” Ross continued.

The chief said communities that have started a Community That Cares program “have seen a significant change in overall juvenile crime. We want to address this factor, reduce crime in general, keep our kids safe.”

Judge Thomas Kay of 2nd District Court, who spoke briefly, initially brought the idea of a coalition forward.

That led to formation of a Davis Helps task force made up of representatives from the Davis School District, law enforcement, Davis Behavioral Health and other groups.

Ross said the group is hoping to hire a part-time coordinator to further the group’s efforts.

“We’re hoping to organize a specific coalition in Bountiful, separate from Davis Helps,” said Debi Todd, who has been overseeing the group’s efforts. “It would be community members coming together to address substance abuse-related issues.”

She echoed Ross noting, “even though it doesn’t appear it’s (underage drinking) a problem in Bountiful, we want to nip any problem in the bud before it gets out of control.”

The statewide Parents Empowered has support by groups ranging from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to the Attorney General’s Office and First Lady’s anti-underage drinking efforts, as well as with backing of businesses, said spokesman Steve Wright.

“I share the dangerous affects underage drinking can have on a teen’s developing brain,” he said. “We talk about how alcoholism and addiction works for a teen’s development process, how that can suffer from long-term irreversible effects.

“We want to let parents know they are the solution,” said Wright, who travels to town meetings across the state with that message. “Research tells us if we’re going to eliminate underage drinking, it has to start with the parents.

“To a lot of parents, they’re kind of in shock at that. They say the media, peer pressure has more influence with their teens. They’re kind of discouraged by the influences that face their children.

“The good news is that children have come back and told us that if we’re not going to get drunk it will be due to our parents’ influence,” Wright said.

Strategies parents can use to fight underage drinking are on the Parents Empowered website, which is www.parentsempowered.org.

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