Coalition works to curb underage drinking
Posted by Kansas Appleseed on 6/25/2010
THE GARDEN CITY TELEGRAMBy RACHEL GRAY email@example.com With a grant from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and support from the business, faith and educational communities, the Finney County Health Coalition hopes to curb underage drinking. Thursday at St. Catherine Hospital, several youth, business leaders, faith leaders and leaders in education met to discuss the address problems in the community—often related to underage drinking. “If these problems were simple to fix, we already would have,” said Troy Unruh, one of the coalition’s coordinators. Participants in Thursday’s seminar made a collective list of concerns for the future of Finney County. The concerns ranged from economic development, to gangs and disengaged youth, to the impact of migration on Finney County. Margaret Perez, program director, talked about the plan to address some of these problems, including alcohol abuse by minors. The organizers have started to launch a media campaign in area newspapers, billboards and radio segments that will direct parents and other concerned individuals to the website www.teenthinking.org, where they can access up-to-date resources and advice in both English and Spanish to teenagers at risk or taking part in underage drinking. The Teen Thinking project of the area health coalition – comprised of 34 area health, social service and educational organizations – is funded by a nearly $1 million Kansas Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive grant awarded in 2009 by SRS. According to data collected by a survey given to students in Finney County, 10 percent of sixth-graders reported in the 2010 survey that they had beer, wine or hard liquor in the previous 30 days. Forty-five percent of high school seniors reported they had used alcohol within the previous 30 days. Several teens were on hand at the seminar to talk about underage drinking and how certain problems are address in Finney County. Miguel Perales, 18, a 2010 gradutes of Garden City High School, said a lot of good topics were discussed during Thursday’s program. He said many of today’s problems, such as underage drinking in Finney County, can be addressed by talking to families. “You really need to speak to parents. I believe it’s the root cause of the problems,” he said. The Center for Children and Families provides various programs, including a program for parents called “Guiding Good Choices,” which is offered in English and Spanish. The program provides parents with lessons about how to handle family conflict, strengthening family bonds, setting clear expectations and preventing substance abuse in the family. “We have wonderful resources, but people don’t utilize those resources,” Unruh said. After Thursday’s program, Unruh and Perez are looking to the future. “We’re figuring out ways to get the message out, and plan projects and activities for all sectors,” Perez said. Perez said she hopes the coalition will begin to work with the Garden City Police Department through the P.A.C.T., or Police and Citizens Together program, a program police have started to replace neighborhood watch. “It makes sense to collaborate with the police department. Neighbors need to be more familiar with each other. We’re trying to hit every aspect of the community,” she said. Visit the Center for Children and Families on the second floor of the St. Catherine Medical Building, 310 E. Walnut St., for referral services. Find other resources online at www.finneycountyhelpdesk.org.