Drinking at parties, riding in a car with drunk drivers, and believing it’s impossible to get addicted to alcohol are all things students admitted during a recent survey by the Maryland Strategic Prevention Framework.
These are relevant issues in Carroll County, according to Maryland Strategic Prevention Framework Coordinator Carol Mullen, who says that a recent grant awarded by the federal government to the Carroll County Health Department and non-profit partner the Carroll County Community Media Center will go toward curbing underage drinking locally.
“Underage drinking, binge drinking and alcohol related crashes are a problem in this county and the grant funds used are to prevent the onset of these behaviors in our youth,” said Mullen, who is heading an awareness campaign on the issue in addition to forming the Carroll County Coalition Against Underage Drinking.
In a recent study by the Maryland Strategic Prevention Framework, 80 percent of high school students admitted to having ridden with someone who was drinking before they got behind the wheel of a car, and 83 percent of students surveyed do not believe they can become addicted to alcohol.
Additionally, 54 percent of Maryland college students surveyed said they drink seven or more drinks on a typical occasion.
In an unofficial Patch poll on the issue, 66 percent of voters said that underage drinking is a problem in Eldersburg.
The goals of the Carroll County grant program headed by Mullen include preventing the onset and reducing the progress of underage drinking, building prevention strategies at the community level, and partnering with an established non-profit organization, the Community Media Center, to increase awareness within the community.
The grant was awarded for five years at $70,000 per year.
“The Carroll County Coalition Against Underage Drinking is in its infancy, but it is growing,” Mullen said. “Its members are from different sectors of the county as well as parents and ultimately, youth.”
The coalition currently has around 50 members and will have its own website in the coming months.
Former trauma nurse Debbie Yohn, who has seen firsthand the dangers of underage drinking, said she believes the coalition will help local students better understand what is at risk.
“As a former trauma nurse I have been at the bedside of way too many teens and young adults who died as a result of drinking and driving,” said Yohn, who co-founded the Carroll County-based organization Positive Alternatives to Dangerous and Destructive Decisions (PADDD) in 1996.
The organization was started, according to Yohn, as a way of working with the courts to educate at risk drivers with DWI's and speeding charges. The program put on by the organization is a three-hour class that follows a crash with stories of local crashes in the community.
“My mission in life now is to create change through educating our communities.”
Yohn said the organization does presentations for parents at local schools about prom night safety to cut down on underage drinking and fatalities.
“This is a huge problem because drinking is seen by many as a right of passage. This has to change and the change has to start with the parents,” Yohn said.
PADDD is working towards having a pre-prom assembly or an injury prevention seminar for parents at every school in Carroll County.
“We have a great team of professionals here in Carroll and I hope through the coalition we can pull our resources together to save lives.”