FARMINGTON — A group that has been meeting since September to discuss ways to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking is hosting a town hall meeting Thursday at the Sycamore Park Community Center.
The San Juan County Underage Drinking Prevention Initiative plans to share information at the meeting that its members have collected about the scope of the local underage drinking problem. The group also hopes to get input and ideas from the community on combating teen drinking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the country. The CDC reports it is responsible for the deaths of more than 4,300 underage youth each year.
What: Town Hall to address underage drinking
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Sycamore Park Community Center, 1051 Sycamore St., Farmington
Where: Location goes here
More info: The UDPI team is available to give presentations to community groups and welcomes new members. Call Pamela Drake at 505-566-5866 or 505-566-5867, or email for more information.
The San Juan County Underage Drinking Prevention Initiative, which was organized by San Juan County Partnership, is composed of community members including school counselors, law enforcement personnel, representatives from the Northwest New Mexico Sexual Assault Services and emergency services staff.
The group hopes to also add other community members such as parents, teachers and church members.
The town hall will feature a panel of individuals who have dealt first-hand with the effects of underage drinking. Town hall attendees can also ask questions and present their ideas.
Pamela Drake, director of San Juan County Partnership, said most adults would be surprised to learn how many teens drink alcohol and how easy it is for them to obtain it.
"Twenty eight percent of youth in San Juan County say they're current drinkers, and 59 percent of those say they usually drink while at someone else's home," she said. "Most kids say someone else, such as older siblings or friends, gives them the alcohol, or hosts parties that they attend."
To assess the problem, the Underage Drinking Prevention Initiative has been conducting focus groups of local youth and giving presentations to community groups about the consequences that result from underage drinking. One objective, Drake said, is to alert adults to the seriousness of "looking the other way" when it comes to youth drinking in the home.
After the town hall, the group plans to expand its outreach by offering presentations to neighborhood watch groups. Drake said that's because many underage drinking parties take place in homes and could be easily detected by observant neighbors.
"Everyone's very concerned about their neighborhoods, and we're hoping that people will start to watch out for underage drinking parties and teens driving drunk in the neighborhood, and that they will report it," Drake said. "The town hall will hopefully give people a chance to openly express their different opinions, and it will offer them an opportunity to get involved in this very serious topic."