March 16, 2011 Edition

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ATOD Coalition receives
good news from survey

Gretchen Hunt
Editor

The ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) Coalition recently received a copy of the 2010 Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment, showing improvement in some key areas of focus for the coalition.

The student survey, which is self-reported, showed a significant decrease in the number of students who said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days.

The survey is completed by sixth, eighth, 10th and 12-graders in all five of the county's schools. In 2009, 22.7 percent said they had drank in the past 30 days. That percentage decreased to 18 percent in 2010.

"We had hoped to get a 1 to 3 percent decrease over a four-year period," Amber Adams, Positive Action coordinator and ATOD volunteer, said. "To see this kind of drop in a year is amazing."

One of the most significant decreases was among seniors. In 2009, 41 percent reported having had an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days. That number dropped to 33.6 percent in 2010.

"The biggest change was in the 10th and 12th grades," Adams said. "Those are the students who have been in the Positive Action Program."

The program, which was implemented under the coalition's Strategic Prevention Frameworks State Incentive Grant, involved prevention education in the county's schools.

"There has to be some correlation between our programs and this change," Alison Oglesby, ATOD project director, said. "It usually takes four to five years before you start to see change. This is the fourth year of our grant."

Oglesby said that when they started their grant in 2007, 51.7 percent of students claimed to have used alcohol at some point in their lifetime. In 2010, that number dropped to 43.8 percent.

Both Oglesby and Adams noted that the survey is set up with triggers that will kick out a survey if a student is obviously lying or treating it like a joke.

Oglesby said they were also pleased to see a change in the students' perception of their parents feelings about underage alcohol use. The measure used is parental disapproval, and students are asked if their parents feel it is wrong or very wrong for minors to use alcohol or tobacco.

In 2010, 88 percent of students reported their parents would disapprove, while in 2009, that number was only 85.6 percent. The most significant change was in the eighth grade reporting, where the number increased from 88.4 percent to 92.2 percent, and the 10th grade, which increased from 78.2 to 85.3 percent.

"We know we're making a change," Oglesby said. "With more funding and more volunteers we can make an even greater change." The coalition hopes to continue this trend with a major goal being to see the age a child first tries alcohol increase.

"Right now for alcohol, the age of onset (or first-time use) is 12.6 years old," Oglesby said. "The age of regular use was under 14."

New grant applied for

The ATOD Coalition completed an application last week for a Drug Free Communities Support Program grant.

If received, the $125,000 grant would require a dollar for dollar match.

"Through in-kind, fund-raising and donations we will have to come up with $125,000," Oglesby said. "So really, we will be putting forth $250,000 for these efforts, but its up to the community and volunteers to help with that."

One thing the new grant would include is a youth peer advisory board. Teens would be trained on the effects of drugs and alcohol and then those teens would have teen-to-teen trainings.

"We hope this will build stronger and more effective drug-free clubs in each of the schools," Adams said. "We hope to make it to where they are hearing the same message - that it's not OK to drink if you're underage - from their parents, teachers, community leaders and peers."

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