Alcohol awareness advocates to hold meeting

Friday, March 21, 2008

At the age of 12 Somerset County youths might go on their first hunting trip, get an extended bed time, or, if they’re lucky, watch a PG-13 rated movie.

Local alcohol awareness advocate Mary Ann Bowman said, by 12 years old, quite a few county kids may have already cracked open their first beer.

“Kids get alcohol at home from older siblings and even parents,” said Bowman, project director for the Somerset County Drug-Free Communities Coalition. “Kids are drinking younger than ever. It can be destructive to young people.”
Bowman, along with a host of sponsors and panelists, are organizing a 7 p.m. April 1 meeting at the Somerset high school auditorium designed to educate the community about underage drinking.

It will be the second of its kind in the county. Coordinators say the last one was held about 1 1/2 years ago.

State police Trooper John Matchik, Somerset Borough police Officer Charles Santa, students from Somerset high school and representatives from several alcohol awareness organizations are to present information.

Underage alcohol abusers may form habits that can last a lifetime. According to Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller, those habits may even contribute to an abuser’s death.

Miller said 65 percent of highway fatalities in Somerset County are alcohol related.

“To me, that is an astonishing number,” said Miller, who is participating in the meeting.

Miller said alcohol is often a factor in unnatural deaths that occur in the county.

“It is far and away one of the biggest causes,” he said.

According to statistics provided by the Somerset Borough police, there were 23 underage alcohol-related incidents in the borough last year. There were 35 DUIs and 23 public drunkenness incidents, including adults.

“I can’t say we have a severe problem with under-21-year-olds getting killed,” Miller said. “We have had a few.”

Miller said educating people can help keep that number down and help to decrease other alcohol-related problems.

“Alcohol is involved with so many incidents,” he said. “I try to help (educate kids) when they are young.”

Alcohol may not be hard for some kids to find.

“Kids get alcohol at home from older siblings and even parents. We have a serious problem,” Bowman said. “Alcohol is the No. 1 drug of use.”

Meeting coordinators encourage anyone interested to attend the meeting.

“The parents and community must be involved with this,” Bowman said. “We can’t do this alone.”

source: Daily American Online