Efforts to curb underage drinking in Grand County focus on adult attitiudes | SkyHiNews.com

Efforts to curb underage drinking in Grand County focus on adult attitiudes

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

Underage drinking is a growing problem in Grand County, but how can it be solved?

In the past two articles, the extent of the problem of underage drinking in both the eastern and western portions of Grand County have been chronicled.

Local experts have concluded that solutions to the problem will not be solved with more education because those programs are already in place in the local schools.

Those same local experts have also reached the conclusion that the community’s “norms” and a permissive attitude of adults are much to blame for the problem.

To begin to find some kind of solution or solutions to the local teenage drinking problem, a Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) seminar is scheduled this week in Kremmling on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8-9, at Trinity Episcopal Church. Everyone is invited.

Those interested in taking part in this week’s Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol seminar are asked to call Cynthia Lynch, coordinator for Kremmling Communities That Care, at 724-9834. Lunch is provided free of charge during each day’s session.

The goal of the two-day seminar is to begin to develop local strategies to deal with the problem.

“The seminar will begin a process that will reduce the availability of alcohol to youth in a community,” said Cynthia Lynch, coordinator for Kremmling Communities That Care, which is sponsoring the seminar.

“We plan to engage the entire community including law enforcement, religious groups, social service organizations, the schools,” Lynch said.

She said the seminar will teach participants how to sample community attitudes through interviews to help find approaches that will work within particular communities.

“And we’ve also got to engage youth in this process,” Lynch said.

One of the main things that the seminar hopes to achieve is developing ways to change adults’ attitudes about underage drinking.

“You hear it all the time around here that drinking is a right of passage for kids, and kids are going to drink, so why fight it,” said Deb Ruttenberg, director of Grand Futures, which is also participating in the seminar. “Many parents say the thing to do is to just provide them with a safe place to do it. When you look at all the consequences, there is really no safe drinking for kids.”

Among the strategies to be discussed at the Thursday and Friday sessions is the possibility of seeking county-wide and municipal ordinances to penalize those adults who are providing alcohol or hosting parties involving alcohol.

“A lot of this effort may have to do with law enforcement and the changing of some laws,” Lynch said. “Social host ordinances could be something to come out of these seminars.”

Ruttenberg said another possible type of ordinance that may result from the seminar involves “cost recovery” from the hosts of alcohol parties. If law enforcement officers or an Emergency Medical Assistance ambulance and paramedics have to dispatched, party hosts would be liable for the costs involved.

“We expect some kind of action plan and a way to evaluate it to come out of this week’s seminar,” Lynch said.

Ruttenberg agreed, saying she also hopes the seminar will generate “enthusiasm and excitement for seeking a change” among its participants.

“It may be a cliche by now, but it really does take a community to raise a child,” she said. “We have got to realize as adults that we can make a difference in making sure that our kids have successful lives. And that it begins when they are young.”

Lynch is encouraging the public to participate in this community effort to ensure that local children grow up to become responsible adults.

“Everyone has got to be involved in this,” she said. “Adults have got to be part of the solution. Although we individually may have different views of alcohol, what we really all want is the same thing, which is that we have good communities where our kids can grow up to be healthy people.”

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