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Kremmling seminars develop community survey about underage drinking

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

In a search for solutions to the problem of underage drinking in Grand County, concerned citizens and community leaders met for a two-day seminar in Kremmling last week.

The Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) seminar was held Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8-9, at Trinity Episcopal Church. The seminar was led by Jennifer Lyle of the Youth Leadership Institute in San Francisco, Calif.

Attending the seminar were representatives from Grand Futures, Kremmling Communities That Care, school district officials and health professionals, and a couple of West Grand High School students.

Also present were law enforcement officials such as Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson and Kremmling Police Chief Scott Spade.

During the two-day CMCA seminar, a number of different strategies to change the Grand County community’s attitudes toward teenage drinking were considered by the participants. Possible action plans were also discussed.

As a first step for tackling the problem, the seminar advocated the sampling public opinion in the form of a survey. An eight-question survey was developed and the participants were taught how to conduct one-on-one interviews with community members.

“The whole process has to begin by finding out what the community’s opinions are of underage drinking,” said Cynthia Lynch, Kremmling Communities That Care’s Coordinator, who participated in the seminar. “We need to compile the information and then decide what to do rather than thinking we already know. We’re going to listen first to people’s opinions.”

In the interviews, the CMCA seminar participants will meet with individual community members and ask them to respond to the survey’s eight questions.

“That’s one of the advantages of going one-on-one is you give the other person the chance to voice their opinions whatever they are,” Lynch said. “For us, the interviewers, we’ll just shut up and listen. Rather than being know-it-alls, maybe we’ll learn where we might be off track on this problem.”

Lynch said the eight questions are “very open-ended.” (See sidebar for questions.)

During the seminar, the participants came up with an initial 120 names, most in the Kremmling where the survey will begin. It will eventually be expanded to include the rest of Grand County.

“As can be expected, we’ll be interviewing people like the mayor, town council, school board,” Lynch said. “But we’ll also be interviewing parents and general citizens.”

While 120 names were selected, Lynch stressed that others wanting to express their views on the survey questions can contact her at 724-9834 to set up an appointment for an interview.

The survey results will be tabulated at the start of the new year and the information will be used to develop an action plan for the county.

The magnitude of the problem

The reason for this new push to deal with underage drinking is the apparent increase of the problem in recent years. Surveys of alcohol use by students in both the East and West Grand school districts have shown a steady rise over the past five years.

When the first survey was taken in 2002, students in the West Grand School District were asked about binge drinking (five or more alcoholic drinks during a single session over the previous two-week period). The results were that 21.2 percent of eighth graders, 28 percent of 10th graders and 29.2 percent of 12th graders admitted to binge drinking.

All of those binge-drinking percentages for West Grand students rose in the 2004 survey ” 31.8 percent for eighth graders, 46.7 percent for 10th graders and 53.8 percent among 12th graders.

Those already high percentages for binge drinking took an even bigger jump in 2006. Eighth graders were now at 35.7 percent while 50.0 percent of 10th graders admitted binge drinking. A total of 59.1 percent of 12th graders reported binge drinking during the previous two-week period.

While binge drinking is the extreme of alcohol use by West Grand students, the overall use of alcohol by them is even higher. In the 2006 survey results, 77.3 percent of high school seniors admitted drinking over a 30-day period. For 10th graders, 50 percent said they consumed alcohol while 51.9 percent of eighth graders admitted they had also.

In the East Grand School District, which has almost three times as many students as West Grand, the results are not much better.

In an April 2005 study by the Search Institute commissioned by the East Grand School District, 48 percent of 12th graders, 37 percent of 10th graders and 26 percent of eighth graders were binge drinkers.

In the same East Grand study, the statistics for alcohol use are similarly high with 65 percent of 12th graders, 63 percent of 10th graders and 44 percent of eighth graders reporting the use alcohol once or more over a 30-day period.

According to 2006 national statistics, binge drinking among students is: 25 percent for 12th graders, 21 percent for 10th graders and 11 percent among eighth graders. Among 12th graders, 45.3 percent drank alcohol once or more in a 30-day period.

These statistics are not only higher than the national area, but are also significantly above the state average. In a 2005 study of Colorado’s ninth to 12th grade students, 31 percent reported binge drinking over a 30-day period.

According to 2006 national statistics, binge drinking among students is: 25 percent for 12th graders, 21 percent for 10th graders and 11 percent among eighth graders. Among 12th graders, 45.3 percent drank alcohol once or more in a 30-day period.

These are the eight questions included in the underage drinking survey that will be asked starting in Kremmling and then the rest of Grand County:

1. What do you think are the issues related to underage drinking in our community?

2. How concerned are you about this, and why?

3. Who do you think is involved in underage drinking?

4. What do you see as some of the barriers to making any changes with this?

5. What are some efforts currently taking place in Kremmling (Grand County) to address this issue?

6. What else do you think is possible?

7. Any other comments you would like to make?

8. Who else do you think we should interview?


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