DHS news release
Sept. 1, 2005
Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Jeff Ruscoe (503) 945-5901
3 rural communities to receive help in fighting underage drinking
Oregon has been named to receive a three-year federal grant to give three rural communities new resources to fight underage drinking, which is a greater problem here than nationally.
Benefiting from the three-year, $350,000-a-year grant will be Lake and Wallowa counties and the coastal town of Newport, selected because they are relatively isolated rural communities with effective community coalitions.
"This grant will bring effective strategies to communities that normally lack resources to combat drinking by teens," said Bob Nikkel, mental health and addictions administrator for the Oregon Department of Human Services "We know that the earlier kids start drinking, the more likely they are to have a problem with alcohol and other drugs.
"Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times as likely to become addicted. Those who don't drink before age 21 almost never have addiction problems."
Nikkel said 30.1 percent and 47.4 percent of Oregon eighth- and 11th-graders, respectively, report having consumed alcohol in the prior 30 days, rates that are significantly above national averages. Eighth-grade girls more frequently report alcohol consumption than boys, he said.
He said these are among the local strategies the grant will support:
Reduce retailer, restaurant and bar sales of alcohol to minors by having teens accompanied by police try to purchase alcohol, a strategy shown to make sellers more careful about checking purchaser ID. Even when alcohol is not sold, he said, owners, bartenders and servers can be educated about reasons behind state law barring alcohol sales to anyone younger than 21.
Reduce underage drinking by supporting police in breaking up parties where teens are drinking, and stationing volunteers to close off escape routes to try to ensure that teens are cited, sources of alcohol are identified and parents are called to pick up their kids. Grant money will be used for police overtime and equipment such as cameras, evidence bags and portable breath testers.
Increase community awareness including promoting parents' responsibility to know what their teens are doing, with whom, and when they will return home, while also increasing DUII enforcement with a focus on youthful drivers.
To qualify for the grant, Nikkel said, communities had to provide evidence of support from local police, school and health-care officials. Oregon is one of seven states with federal grants to reduce underage drinking in rural areas.
He said work in these three communities, beginning later this year, is being complemented statewide by a separate federal grant that also supports such activities. Both grants were awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice.
"These awards fund initiatives to limit youth access to alcohol, strictly enforce underage drinking laws and promote zero tolerance for underage drinking while creating positive outlets for our youth," Regina Schofield, assistant attorney general for the federal justice programs office, said in a news release.