Grant to help combat underage drinking among DHS students

Teens in Marengo County rank seventh highest in the state for alcohol use.

That’s a statistic of concern to a group of people determined to lower underage drinking in the area.

A three-year, $65,000 Strategic Incentive Grant from the Substance Abuse Administration and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), administered through the Alabama Department of Mental Health Office of Prevention will target teen alcohol use at Demopolis High School.

The school wasn’t chosen because of any specific problem but because 60 percent of the high school students in the county go to Demopolis, said Connie Brown of Demopolis, coordinator of the Marengo County Children’s Policy Council (CPC).

“There are issues all over the county,” Brown said, “but the nature of this grant called for us to pinpoint a school.”

Southern Prevention, in partnership with the Marengo County CPC, will serve as the coalition group to implement the grant project entitled Community in Action (CIA).

Brown said the project has three goals, which are the same as those for the state: reduce underage drinking, reduce binge drinking and reduce the number of people riding with a drinking driver.

The grant implementation began with Marengo County CPC members completing a Coalition Capacity Readiness assessment.

A total of 370 residents of Marengo County took part in a 25-question online survey about alcohol consumption and its consequences. A Needs Assessment Survey identified resources available in the community.

The Council has developed two strategies to reach their goals. First, said Brown, is getting the word out concerning the issues related to underage drinking in in the area and the role of the local coalition in the CIA Project.

Second, the Council will create opportunities for parent and student participation in CIA activities and to strengthen their part in coalition membership.

To accomplish this, the Council plans to form a network of parents to support alcohol prevention efforts, encourage parent and child communication, teach parents how to look for signs of alcohol abuse and start a peer leadership group to assist efforts to reduce underage drinking.

The CIA members in Marengo County include District Judge Wade Drinkard; Gina Johnston and Ana Martinez, both with Demopolis City Schools; Carol Dixon, Department of Human Resources; Natalie Quinney, state Health Department; Kevin Bell, state Department of Public Safety; Tommie Reese, Demopolis Chief of Police; Darren Glass, Juvenile Court, and David Willis, pastor of Demopolis First United Methodist Church.

Other members include Shenika Williams, Bill Wilkins and Beth Wideman, parents and business owners; Andy Renner, media, and Patricia Moore, West Alabama Mental Health.

Anyone interested in working with the CPC is invited to call 295-8774.