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DHS news release

January 27, 2004

Contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955
Program contact: Barbara Cimaglio (503) 945-6998

Oregon counties receive grants to curtail underage drinking

Four Oregon counties will be the focus of stepped-up efforts to prevent underage alcohol use as a result of a new $360,000 grant from the federal office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Beginning in February, Benton, Clatsop, Marion and Yamhill counties will implement retailer inspections to try to reduce sales to underage minors and also strengthen how police handle underage drinking violations. The two primary projects are called "Minor Decoy" and "Controlled Party Dispersal."

The grants will be administered through the Oregon Department of Human Services. According to Jeff Ruscoe, DHS alcohol and drug prevention coordinator, both of these are effective tools and are considered to be best practices for reducing underage drinking. The Minor Decoy project involves having a teenager, accompanied by an undercover law enforcement officer, try to buy alcohol from a retailer. These visits will be coordinated with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The "Controlled Party Dispersal" plan works in conjunction with law enforcement.

"Communities throughout the nation have implemented controlled dispersal programs and are reporting fewer alcohol related motor-vehicle accidents, sexual assaults and alcohol poisonings," Ruscoe said.

"In the past, when law enforcement officers were called to a home where underage kids were drinking, the officers just might pour the alcohol out and send the kids home," he said. Under the controlled dispersal program, officers contain party participants and control their release.

Underage youth found to have been drinking are cited for violating underage drinking laws.

"The dispersal program reduces the likelihood that there will be another such party at the same house the next weekend or that the same group will be drinking again at another location," Ruscoe said.

Each of the counties is also implementing activities to educate the community and retailers about underage drinking and accessibility to alcohol. The counties were selected from a pool of 12 applicants. A second round of grant recipients will be selected in March for additional projects in the Minor Decoy and Controlled Party Dispersal programs.