What: Underage Drinking Prevention Initiative meeting
When: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24
Where: San Juan County Partnership, 3535 E. 30th Street, Farmington
Information: : Contact Pamela Drake at 505-566-5866, or email email@example.com
FARMINGTON — A new local effort hopes to shed light on the dangers of underage drinking.
A group of San Juan County residents have formed the Underage Drinking Prevention Initiative, which aims to educate the community on the risks of underage drinking. The group met for the first time Friday to define its goals and come up with an action plan.
Wake Forest University, a private liberal arts college in North Carolina, provided a small grant to the San Juan County Partnership to start the initiative. Pamela Drake, director of San Juan County Partnership, worked with the university to formulate a local intervention oriented task force targeting teenage drinking.
At Friday's meeting, Drake presented statistics on teen drinking in San Juan County in 2012 from the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, which is conducted every other year.
According to the survey, 41 percent of eighth-graders reported that they have consumed alcohol. By the time they are seniors in high school, 23 percent admit to binge drinking. More than 60 percent of high school students have obtained alcohol from someone else, and 85 percent of underage alcohol consumption occurs at the teen's home or at another person's home.
In New Mexico, while it's illegal for adults to provide alcohol to someone else's child, there is nothing that bars parents from providing alcohol to their own underage children under their own roof.
Because of at-home drinking and adult involvement in providing the alcohol -- often called "social hosting" -- Drake said it's crucial to educate parents about how harmful it is to provide alcohol for teens and allow parties in their homes.
"We need to get the word out about the consequences of these underage parties, such as DWIs, car accidents, bullying, fighting and sexual assaults," she said. "Kids are also posting videos on YouTube of other kids who are drunk at parties, and this kind of thing can ruin a kid's reputation."
Farmington police Sgt. Baric Crum said the root of the problem is the source of the alcohol.
"That's one of the key points: it's not alcohol alone that's the problem, but the other factors that come from it. We have to take care of the primary problem of who's providing the kids with alcohol," he said.
Crum said Farmington police will soon conduct "party patrols" to locate and shut down teen drinking parties.
Abigail Lee, student assistance social worker with Farmington Municipal Schools, said she often talks to parents who are complacent about their children's alcohol use.
"What's frustrating is that I deal with parents who would rather have kids drink at home than drink and drive," Lee said. "And kids tend to minimize the danger of using alcohol. They'll tell me, 'At least I'm not doing something worse.'"
The next step of the initiative will involve assessing the scope of the teen drinking problem in the county, finding out how kids are obtaining the alcohol and identifying the consequences of drinking on the teens' lives. The initiative will also reach out to various community groups to educate people about the problem and get input on how to address it.
The initiative will meet again later this month, and Drake encourages anyone interested in being a part of the group to contact her.
"We want to stress that we're not trying to identify specific people or homes that are providing alcohol to kids," she said. "We just want to get an idea of what's happening and make sure people know about the negative consequences of teen drinking."