Underage drug and alcohol abuse is a huge problem in Utah. It is leading to addiction and other societal problems and resulting in tragedy.
The state ranks fifth highest in the nation in overdose deaths among teens. Research shows that kids who experiment with alcohol before the age of 13 have a 45 percent chance of becoming alcohol dependent. Studies also show that dynamic changes occur in the brain during adolescence, and alcohol can seriously damage the growth process.
"Folks, this is something that we've got to get our heads wrapped around as communities," according to Craig PoVey, from the organization Bonneville Communities that Care. "If we can eliminate underage drinking in our community, we can eliminate the detrimental effects that alcohol has on our community, our society, our state and even in our nation."
Executive Director of Weber Human Services, Kevin Eastman, suggests, "If we can intervene, we can affect the onset of alcohol, mental health issues and we can change the course and outcomes of people's lives."
As part of a team effort to educate parents about the problem, the cities of South Ogden, Riverdale, Washington Terrace and Uintah are teaming up with Weber County, Bonneville Communities that Care, and Parents Empowered. For the next six months, many city vehicles will be labeled with messages to parents about the danger alcohol consumption poses on our youth. Messages will be placed on police cars, snowplows, and maintenance vehicles in each of those cities and on many Weber County vehicles. The goal is to get parents to talk to their children and set clear rules to keep them from experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
South Ogden Police Chief Darin Parke, says, "I think these partnerships can have a real impact on helping us do what we need to do. It's by no means the only thing we need to do, but this is an educational program that you need to act appropriately. It's just one step of a community coming together to address a serious problem."
Mayor Norm Searle or Riverdale adds, "We know our youth are great kids and they have bright futures. Together we can help to keep them on the right track."
While Utah's communities are not all the same, they do share a common interest: protecting our youth. The Bonneville Communities that Care coalition is hoping a uniform strategy will send a strong, clear message.
Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns on DeseretNews.com or visit their website at ulct.org.