Changing the 'social norm'

Health project committee absorbs feedback on underage drinking

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Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.

Despite a small public turnout at Wednesday night's Northwest Colorado Health Project sub-committee meeting, organizers are encouraged about the large number of suggestions made during the forum.

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"The people who were there had a lot to offer," said project coordinator Diane Miller, of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. "These were the right people. They were parents and concerned parents."

The Health Project is a Colorado Trust grant-funded initiative aimed at creating a campaign to deter underage drinking. The Health Project committee is comprised of representatives from multiple Yampa Valley agencies.

Miller and the committee gained four pages of suggestions from the limited band of residents.

She said suggestions ranged from how to better promote anti-drinking advertisements and literature to deterring parents from allowing their children to drink.

Some suggestions gained Wednesday include:

  • Unifying Yampa Valley agencies that deal with addictive substances and involving the agencies with the project. Miller said some of those agencies are already involved, but more could be added.
  • Involving the court system and law enforcement agencies.
  • Lobbying for local legislation that would mandate parents appear in court with a child who is charged with minor in possession of alcohol.

The suggestions will be reviewed and, along with suggestions from a Steamboat Springs forum next week, integrated into a campaign plan. The project committee also is considering adding a Jackson County focus group into the mix.

"We have a menu of (ideas) to choose from," Miller said of the campaign plan. "What we want is to change the social norm that says it's OK to look the other way when someone underage is drinking. We know that's not the case."

One of the biggest hurdles the group faces, Miller said, is shattering the perception that underage drinking will occur no matter what.

"It's better to do something," she said, "than to do nothing."

And that job would be much easier, the project committee agreed, with increased parent responsibility.

"We have to compel parents," Miller said. "They have to know they have a right to control and monitor their kids' lives."

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