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Editors note: This article is part of a project of the local Community Health Council, or CHIC.  Health Councils were created statewide in conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health with the goal of getting local citizens and county governments more involved in the manner in which health might be improved in each of their communities. The local CHIC is conducting an ongoing awareness campaign addressing the various areas that can potentially affect a person’s health. This month has been devoted to solutions to underage drinking.

"Every 15 Minutes," or E15M, is a first person experience, DUI prevention program designed to make the consequences of driving under the influence and being in the car with someone who is driving under the influence as real as possible. Much like reality TV, E15M puts students on the front line of a DUI fatal accident.  Responders to the accident can be heard over a speaker system, trying to find a pulse on a victim and determining there isn’t one.  Firefighters coordinate extraction of a trapped teen and the fear and pain in the victim’s voice chills onlookers. Officers administer sobriety testing and arrest the driver.

The mock accident scene is simply the beginning for those participating in this program. Throughout the morning, students will be pulled from class by local law enforcement and in some cases a “Grim Reaper” figure. These students are transported to a seminar where speakers from different agencies including the Victims Impact Panel, Brewer Lee and Larkin Funeral Homes, Desert View Counseling, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, and N.M. Juvenile Probation provide education and enlightenment on the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

The final part to the program is a memorial assembly.

A casket is brought into the gym by pall bearers, the students from the seminar are seated with tombstones in front of them and their parents are seated opposite them. The assembly opens with a poem by Carol Kohler, letters are read by students and parents, each one starting with “Today I/you were killed in a DUI related accident……”, and other speakers including a presentation by Dr. Eric Ketcham, Director of San Juan Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department.  As students leave the assembly, they are encouraged to sign a banner with their intention not to be a statistic of DUI.  Each student who signs is given a rubber cause bracelet to wear and show their commitment.

It’s not just being at a party and having too much to drink or using drugs, it’s also being the person who says no and then gets into a car with someone who has been using. If the E15M program can save one life, then everything our emergency responders and partners put into the program is worth it!” said coordinator .

This year the program will be at Aztec High School on March 28 and 29.

Michele Truby-Tillen is the coordinator for the E15M program.

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