Underage drinking is focus of meeting

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A town hall meeting, scheduled to be held at Southwest High School on Thursday, April 29, will attempt to bring awareness to the risks of underage drinking and prescription drug use. The meeting is designed to empower the local community to take action and stop underage drinking and drug use.

"We will be sharing information about adolescent drug use and ways the community can help with substance abuse problems among kids," said Dr. Heidi Henderson.

Henderson, Crowder College addictions counseling program coordinator, will serve as a guest speaker at the town hall meeting. She will be assisted by Mark Barton, who is a second-year student in the addictions counseling program at the Crowder College Cassville Campus.

"We will also present information on a concept called 21/90," said Henderson. "Research shows that 90 percent of individuals who wait until they are 21 or older to try alcohol or other substances will never become addicts. That should motivate us to keep kids clean and sober until they are of age."

Henderson and Barton will also share information on adolescent brain development and the impacts of alcohol and substance abuse.

"I hope that we can help raise community awareness," said Henderson. "We need to take more action and incorporate more programs into our school systems.

"The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program stops before students reach high school and that is when they need the education the most," said Henderson. "We need to see this as much of a priority as academics and sports. Drug and alcohol abuse have the ability to destroy students with even the most potential for a good career."

During the town hall meeting Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Les Wilson will also present the "Stop the Knock" program.

"This program and all of our teen programs focus on the reduction of teen fatalities among drivers," said Sgt. Mike Watson. "Statistics show that traffic crashes kill more teens than anything else.

"'Stop the Knock' refers to the duty we have to knock on a door to notify a family member that their loved one is not coming home," said Watson. "We want to educate teens about making good decisions when driving, using seat belts and not drinking and driving. We want them to stop us from having to knock on a door and deliver the message that no parent wants to hear."

A short question and answer session will be offered at the end of the meeting.

According to the 2008 Missouri Student Survey, 21 percent of Southwest School District students reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, and 65 percent of Southwest High School students and 40 percent of Southwest Middle School students reported that one in four of their best friends had used alcohol in the last year.

All Barry County community members are invited to attend the town hall meeting, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Southwest COED (Coalition of Effective Decision Makers).

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