There's one thing scarier than a teenager with access to alcohol, and that's being a parent of a teenager who has access to alcohol.
Protecting children is a parent's No. 1 priority, but how can we protect them after they've left the house? Anything can happen, and when alcohol is involved, bad things are more likely to happen. That goes for teens who are being pressured to drink or those who are rebelling by drinking as much as they can.
Short of keeping teens under lock and key, local help is available for parents wishing to prepare for the uncertainties of underage drinking. The Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition offers programs to help parents, children and the community deal with this ongoing social issue.
The CYC is a network of people in Lake Placid and Wilmington - encompassing the Lake Placid Central School District - that promotes healthy choices. And one of those healthy choices is to refrain from drinking alcohol until age 21.
In the "Power of Parents" program, CYC staffers offer free 20-minute workshops focused on underage drinking. The message is simple:
"Of all the dangers your teen faces, underage drinking is among the worst. Whether teens are experimenting with beer, wine, or other liquor, alcohol presents a serious - and potentially deadly - threat."
Compared with non-drinking classmates, teens who drink are more likely to: die in a car crash, get pregnant, flunk school, be sexually assaulted, become an alcoholic later in life or take their own life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call underage drinking a "major public health problem." Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused substance among teens in the U.S. and is responsible for about 5,000 youth deaths a year: 1,900 in motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 homicides, 300 from suicide and hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns and drownings. Of the people who consume alcohol in the U.S., 11 percent are between the ages of 12 and 20.
To combat underage drinking, our society has established a number of methods for intervention, according to the National Institutes of Health. One way is to create an environment where access to alcohol is more limited and the consequences of illegal activity are better understood: raise the prices for alcoholic beverages, raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21, enact zero-tolerance laws and step up enforcement. Another method is to focus on the individual and establish school-based and family-based prevention programs.
The Lake Placid/Wilmington CYC uses both methods. Power of Parents falls into the individual prevention category while "Alcohol Basic Training" is an environmental approach.
Alcohol Basic Training is a 2 to 2.5-hour program, certified by the New York State Liquor Authority and designed to train bar and restaurant owners and their employees who serve or sell alcohol on compliance with the alcohol beverage control laws. The emphasis is on stopping underage drinking.
The training prepares employees to recognize the signs of intoxication, spot underage patrons and prevent sales to minors, intervene quickly in potential problem situations and handle alcohol-related situations using proven strategies. After training, employees are certified for three years and the establishment is enrolled in the New York State Liquor Authority Responsible Vendor Program. As a member of the program, there could be a reduction in SLA-imposed fines or suspension when an employee commits a violation.
Most recently, the CYC purchased five hand-held ID readers that scan driver's licenses and cross-reference them with Department of Motor Vehicle databases to ensure that the person trying to purchase alcohol is at least 21 years of age. The CYC gave four of the ID readers to local bars: Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Wise Guys, Roomers and Zig Zags. And one will be lent to event organizers in the region who serve alcohol.
We're lucky to have the CYC in Lake Placid and Wilmington. Not only does it help prevent underage drinking, it promotes healthy activities for our youth and gives parents a much-needed helping hand.
Learn more about the Lake Placid-Wilmington CYC online at connectingyouth.com or by calling Development Director Carol Hayes at 518-523-2474 ext. 4021.