April 15, 2009 Edition

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ATOD Coalition sets
town hall meetings



Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Coalition members Laura Prondzinski (from left) and April Allison listen as Joyce Rose, chair of the coalition, talks about the organization's upcoming town hall meetings.
Submitted Photo ~ Amber Adams

Addressing the issue of underage drinking will be the topic of town hall meetings recently set by the ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) Coalition of Lawrence County.

The first meeting will be at the Lawrence County Community Room in Walnut Ridge on April 23, and the second will be on April 30 at the Powhatan Community Center. Both meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m., and a light meal/refreshments will be served.

Joyce Rose, chair of the coalition, shared why the issue of underage drinking is important.

"The latest results from the Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment, conducted in Lawrence County sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades, show that by the time Lawrence County students reach eighth grade, 39.3 percent have had a first drink and by 12th grade the number rises to 76 percent," Rose said. "The combined average age of the onset of first alcohol use by county students is 12.7 years of age with the average age of first regular use for the county being 14.3 years old."

Rose also said that 15 percent of students surveyed reported binge drinking; higher than the state average of 13.1 percent. She said 8.5 percent of students in all four grades reported being drunk or high at school, while 18.3 percent of seniors reported having been drunk or high at school.

"These are statistics that illustrate the importance of addressing the issue of underage drinking in our county, as well as the importance of early education on the dangers of alcohol use," Rose said.

"Town hall meetings are held to increase community awareness on the issue of underage drinking, to learn more about how the issue affects the youth in Lawrence County, to provide an opportunity for all sectors of the community to voice concerns and brainstorm ideas for ways to address the issue and to learn more about efforts already being made in the county," she added.

Handouts will be available, and there will be presentations by county youth and by those involved in prevention efforts.

Rose said the meetings are part of a national effort on underage drinking prevention promoted by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to educate youth, parents, caregivers and other adults about the harmful effects of underage drinking.

"Lawrence County citizens are encouraged to attend one of these meetings and to get involved in making a difference in the lives of our youth," Rose said.

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