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Local News

May 21, 2012

National Underage Drinking Prevention Day is May 21

CENTERVILLE — Though we have made progress in the fight to reduce underage drinking, our Nation continues to suffer a range of unacceptable and costly health and social problems, including traffic fatalities, suicides, physical and sexual assaults, brain impairment, alcohol dependence, youth academic problems, and alcohol and drug poisonings. To end these heartbreaking consequences, we must act by promoting rigorous enforcement measures and effective substance abuse prevention programs. On National Underage Drinking Prevention Day, we recommit to preventing tragedy before it strikes by ensuring that our family members and friends stay safe, sober, and alcohol-free while they are under the legal drinking age.

In the spring of 2011 Appanoose County had found itself publically pronounced as Iowa's poorest, Iowa's least healthy, Iowa’s highest child abuse county and one of Iowa’s highest ranking counties for underage drinking. Several initiatives have developed within the past year in response to this, The Appanoose County Wellness Coalition, Up With Appanoose Project, and the Appanoose County Collaboration Council on Underage Drinking.  The community decided that we will not retreat silently in humiliation, but rather many concerned citizens rallied behind their belief that they could move our county up multiple statistical ladders in all these areas and bring Appanoose County back to its full glory.

According to the Department of Public Health, twenty-three counties were identified in need of assistance in the areas of underage and binge drinking. Appanoose was ranked as the number one county for binge drinking and number nineteen for underage drinking.  “Underage drinking is a pressing health concern that affects not only our youth but also our communities,” explains Charlotte Head, Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant coordinator.

On April 19, 2012, the Appanoose County Collaboration Council hosted a Town Hall Meeting to increase awareness about the negative consequences of underage drinking and discuss proven steps the community can take to prevent underage drinking.  This event, supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in collaboration with the Appanoose County Collaboration Council and SIEDA Community Action Agency, provided information to impress how serious alcohol abuse is and what can happen when caught.

Participants heard about alcohol abuse prevention, effects, consequences and responsibilities the public has in Appanoose County.  With assistance from Troy Seeley, the Jefferson County Juvenile Court Officer acting as the facilitator, the seven member panel included, Mr. Dan Howington, Mr. Allen Buckallew, Mr. Corbin Shy, Mrs. Ilene Johnson, Rev. Mark Waits, Mr. Dennis Peter, and Ms. Patty Timmens.

The Town Hall Meeting educated parents, teachers, officials, youth and other community members about the impact that underage drinking has on the community. When asked what happens to one’s driver’s license when underage drinking occurs, former Centerville police chief Dan Howington replied, “Those under the legal age of twenty-one that are caught, are asked to take a breathalyzer test, if you bomb the test, you lose your license for six months.  You have a right to refuse the test, but if you do, you automatically lose your license for twelve months and for a second offense, the consequences double.  The blood alcohol limit is pretty low, .02, so if you’re thinking I’m ok with just one beer, you might want to think again.”  Together, participants explored tangible measures found to be effective in reducing and preventing underage alcohol use in other communities.

Evidence-based types of environmental prevention can reduce the prevalence of underage drinking in communities where they are implemented. Research also indicates that families exert a great deal of influence on whether a child uses alcohol. “What parents may not realize,” says Charlotte Head, “is that that their disapproval of underage drinking is a key reason that some youth in Appanoose County have chosen not to drink.” SAMHSA reports that children and teens are less likely to abuse alcohol if parents are involved in their children’s lives, make and enforce clear rules and are positive role models.

If you are interested in more information regarding the SPF SIG process, go to www.idph.state.ia.us/spfsig. If you would like to become involved in the Appanoose County Collaboration Council, you can contact the SPF SIG coordinator at the SIEDA Community Action Agency, by phone at (641) 437-1134 or by email at chead@sieda.org.

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