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Supporting parents with a message of prevention: Town hall meeting planned Monday on underage drinking, drug use

Tribune photo illustration by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — An information meeting hosted next week by the Kandiyohi County Drug-Free Communities Coalition will give parents and the rest of the public a chance to hear facts and statistics about underage alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use.

The town hall meeting will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday in the multi-purpose room of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building.

The goal is not only to provide information to parents and the community but also to emphasize the message of prevention, said Rick Loseth, a member of the Drug-Free Communities Coalition committee that has been working to organize the meeting.

“It is part of the broad strategy we want to keep doing. We want this to be in the forefront of people’s thoughts,” he said.

Participants will hear a presentation by the regional CEE-VI Drug Task Force, along with information on the coalition’s role in working with local authorities to develop a tobacco-free policy for Kandiyohi County beaches, social host ordinances and a prescription drop box program.

Data also will be presented on trends in underage use of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco, followed by discussion on steps parents can take.

The Kandiyohi County Drug-Free Communities Coalition is hoping for a good turnout, Loseth said. “It’ll be a good night for those parents and community members who come. Hopefully they come out with some new information or feeling reinforced as parents.”

Planning for the town hall meeting has been underway for several weeks. But the issue of underage drinking moved sharply into the forefront recently with the death of a Dawson-Boyd student following a party at a Lac qui Parle County farmhouse where underage drinking allegedly took place. Two men, a father and son, were criminally charged this week under the county’s social host ordinance.

The majority of Minnesota teens do not drink or use marijuana or other drugs. According to the latest Minnesota Student Survey, conducted last fall, more than 60 percent of 11th-graders statewide said they did not use alcohol and 75 percent had not used marijuana.

More than half, however, saw only a slight, moderate or no risk in using alcohol. Kids were even less likely to perceive marijuana as harmful; 22 percent thought there was no risk in using marijuana once or twice a week and 25 percent believed the risk was only slight.

Addressing attitudes about perception of harm continues to be a challenge, and this goes for adults as well as teens, Loseth said.

“They say, ‘Well, I did it as a kid and I survived.’ We continue to face that attitude,” he said. “There was harm when I was a teen. There’s harm today. That’s not changed.”

Young people today also are exposed to far more media and marketing efforts for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs than their parents were, which can make them more vulnerable, he noted.

Organizers of the town hall meeting hope to spur some conversation that arms the current generation of adults with facts and helpful strategies, Loseth said. “There’s plenty of work to do yet.”

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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