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Underage drinking to be the focus of townhall meeting

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Drug-Free Communities Coalition is launching Alcohol Awareness Month activities with a town meeting on Monday, featuring keynote speaker Patty Sterner on the community impact of underage drinking.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Little Theatre at Kennedy Elementary School. Sterner, a track coach at Dassel-Cokato High School, lost her stepdaughter to acute alcohol poisoning in 2007. Amanda Jax died after a night of drinking with friends to celebrate her 21st birthday. She was a former nursing student at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

After Amanda's death, Patty Sterner became an advocate for reducing the incidence of underage drinking. Last year she received one of the first-ever Commissioner's Play Healthy Awards from Major League Baseball Charities and The Partnership at Award winners were chosen for their community involvement and commitment to fair and healthy play within their sport.

During her talk on Monday, she will share the story of her stepdaughter's death.

The event is open to the community.

From 6:30 to 7 p.m., the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office also will host a display in the lobby on "What Parents Should Look For." The exhibit will include drug paraphernalia and an array of drug prevention information.

The most recent data on youth drug and alcohol use will be presented at 6:45 p.m. by Sally Belgum-Blad, an evaluation specialist with the PACT 4 Families youth mental health consortium. The statistics come from the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey and PACT 4's county-by-county drug use survey results.

April is designated as national Alcohol Awareness Month each year to raise public awareness of alcohol misuse and underage drinking. Alcohol is the most pervasive form of substance abuse among youths in the United States.