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Strategic planning meeting assesses needs, begins planning next steps

The Working Together Coalition called a strategic planning meeting July 10 to discuss the area’s problems regarding alcohol use among minors and began making plans to combat that.

Kelly Felton, WTC Coordinator, explained local problem behaviors and their root causes. Among these were: easy access to alcohol, uncertainty of parental positions on alcohol consumption, and an image of favorability toward alcohol use in local communities.

Felton also explained that alcohol that has been provided to minors has not been provided by establishments, but by individuals over the age of 21 who have either stayed in the area following graduation from high school or have returned from college. Research has also shown that parents are sometimes providing alcohol for their children.

Felton then asked attendees to brainstorm ways to combat the root causes of local problem behaviors.

One proposed solution was to educate parents, especially those of at-risk teens, in ways to talk to their teens about alcohol use. Such education could also be used to remind parents to show responsible behavior around children and to encourage responsible behavior by their children. It could also be used to assist parents in helping and encouraging their children to make responsible decisions on their own, thus giving them a sense of empowerment.

One group suggested that parents could make their rules and expectations known by writing a parent/child contract. By reading and signing this contract, children would have to acnowledge their understanding of their parents’ expectations.

It was proposed that another solution could include an increase in evidence-based prevention that would use scientific research on brain development, and statistics to educate children against underaged drinking.

Drinking was not the only issue discussed, as Felton said that legalization of marijuana use in multiple states has given youth mixed messages and has cast a positive light on marijuana use.

Overall, the planning meeting collected ideas to move toward forming new, effective strategies in underage drinking prevention.